Police have arrested a local man suspected to be involved in a blackmail scheme, demanding a Bitcoin from two travel agencies.

Big Line Holiday and Goldjoy Holidays reported the hacking incidents on January 1 and 2. The hacker demanded a Bitcoin as ransom, claiming he had information relating to nearly 200,000 of their customers – including names and details of Hong Kong identity cards, passports, home return permits and phone numbers. One unit of the digital cryptocurrency is worth around HK$125,000, as of Monday afternoon.

Superintendent Swalikh Mohammed of the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau said they had arrested a 30-year-old man – who works in an IT-related filed – last Saturday night at a residential flat on Cheung Chau island. The man has been detained.

Big Line Holiday Goldjoy Holidays
Big Line Holiday and Goldjoy Holidays. Photo: Facebook.

The police seized two desktop computers, two laptops, a tablet, three hard disks, and five mobile phones from the flat. They also retained evidence from his workplace.

Mohammed said hackers may target companies which do not have adequate network security.

“I would like to make an appeal – the cyber world is not a lawless place where criminals can hide. The majority of the laws applicable in the real world can also be applied on the internet. Blackmail is a serious offence – upon conviction, a person can be imprisoned for 14 years,” Mohammed said.

Mohammed said it was uncertain where the crime was carried out, and he would not answer as to whether customer information had been leaked.

He said further arrests could not be ruled out.

Superintendent Swalikh Mohammed
Superintendent Swalikh Mohammed. Photo: Police screenshot.

In November last year, travel agency WWPKG was also blackmailed by hackers, with claims that customer data relating to 200,000 customers had been stolen, along with 20,000 people’s credit card details.

The company was asked for a seven-figure ransom in Bitcoin. The company’s system was locked by the hacker, but it was cracked by the police in around three days. No arrests were made.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.