zcopley/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)
A Bitcoin card. If it's true that Mitt Romney's tax returns were hacked, will he be able to find $1 million in Bitcoin to pay the ransom?
UPDATE: Bitcoin prices have risen on this news. So far, I haven't seen anyone persuasively argue that this is why the rumors and allegations about Romney's tax returns — and the $1M ransom, payable in BTC — have been put out there.
Apparently, this is legitimate enough to invite the attention of the Secret Service. Various sources — I saw it on VentureBeat — are reporting that PricewaterhouseCoopers, the big accounting firm, might have been hacked and that cyberthieves have made off with Mitt and Ann Romney's tax returns.
None of this is substantiated, but here's the zany part: the hackers are asking for a $1-million ransom, to not release Romney's tax returns, a source of campaign controversy, to the media.
The ransom must be paid in Bitcoin, the cybercurrency with a checkered past but a devoted following amond the tech-libertarian set.
I've written quite a bit about Bitcoin (heh, heh) and this is the first time I've ever heard of the cybercurrency being involved with blackmail. There have been Bitcoin thefts — one happened just yesterday, VentureBeat reports, to the tune of $250,000 with a Bitcoin exchange. I've seen some funky activity on my own experimental Bitcoin account.
But holding the world's most coveted tax returns hostage for...one million dollars? This is new territory for the cybercurrency. Obviously, it could all be a publicity stunt of some sort. The letter that PwC received from the purported hackers was pretty snarky when it came to Bitcoin knowledge, suggesting that if they don't know what it is, they Google it.
So if the theft turns out to be for real, how would Romney or PwC or some combination thereof get the Bitcoin? It's unclear. He would probably have to go on a Bitcoin exchange, like Mt. Gox, and trade or exchange $1 million for BTC. Not that that would ever happen. But this latest adventure in Bitcoin isn't going to do much to take the edge off the cybercurrency's roguish reputation.