A group claiming to have stolen tax returns belonging to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney say they want $1 million in Bitcoins by September 28 or they’ll publicly release the records worldwide.
News agencies report the U.S. Secret Service is investigating the alleged data theft at the Franklin, Tenn., offices of Romney’s accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
“All major news media outlets are going to be sent an encrypted copy of the most recent tax years that your company had on file since you did not have them all in a convenient electronic form. The years before 2010 will be of great interest to many,” the group wrote in a letter to PwC posted on Pastebin. “If the parties interested do not want the encrypted key released to the public to unlock these documents on September 28 of this year then payment will be necessary.”
Romney’s been under fire in recent months for refusing to release his tax returns prior to 2010.
Though the group sent the ransom to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the message on Pastebin offered the records to anyone who first converts $1 million to Bitcoins using an exchange.
“And the same time, the other interested parties will be allowed to compete with you,” according to the letter. “For those that DO want the documents released will have an [sic] different address to send to. If $1,000,000 USD is sent to this account below first; then the encryption keys will be made available to the world right away. So this is an equal opportunity for the documents to remain locked away forever or to be exposed before the September 28 deadline.
“Who-ever is the winner does not matter to us.”
The accounting firm said via Twitter that there was no evidence of unauthorized access to its data.
The attackers reportedly sent packages containing the letter and a flash drive to both Republican and Democratic party offices in Williamson County, Tenn. Representatives from both offices told reporters they received the padded packages but did not view the drive’s contents. The packages were turned over to authorities on Wednesday.
The anonymous group of hackers say the data heist took place Aug. 25. Local police said there were no reports during the entire month of August to indicate the accounting offices were broken into.