Blackmail stems from the Scottish borders with England, when 'kilted chieftains' extorted farmers amongst ordinary citizens from both Scotland and England, under the guise of a tax.

What it was however, was simply extortion, for protection from violence, including 'cattle rustlers'.

Blackmail is a hybrid word, taken from a combination of the Scandinavian term 'mal' meaning 'agreement ', but also from two Scottish Gaelic words, 'Blathaich' meaning 'to protect' and 'mal', denoting a payment.

The word commenced being used in the 16th century, however, the offences of 'Blackmail' had been going on from the 12th century.

First Legislation and Infamous Incidents Involving Blackmail

Ancient Roman Rule had legislation for this offence and one of the most high profile episodes associated with blackmail involved England's King Edward III, who was blackmailed.

It was reported that a lowly Genovese priest sent the King a letter, stating that the King's father, King Edward II, thought to have been murdered, by his son, was indeed alive.

Soon after, the lowly priest was promoted to bishop, with his prominent family bestowed with riches.

King Louis XVI, husband of Queen Marie Antoinette, on being advised of a media campaign in 1789 (In those days, by way of pamphlets) being about to be distributed, alleging the Queen to have been involved in sexual trysts, including bestiality, nymphomania and lesbianism, decided to pay the blackmailers.

Whilst such a scandal was found to be mainly untrue, as this occurred during the French Revolution, the King paid for the pamphlets to be destroyed.

Australian Blackmail

February 2021 saw 2 Sydney and 2 Canadian blackmailers arrested in an international political case, involving a Senior Iraqi Politician, with 'Dual Australian Nationality', involving a demand for $10 million.

Approximately, 10 years prior, in 2012, Sydney schoolgirl, Madeline Pulver, was the subject of a horrendous domestic terrorism form of blackmail, when Paul Peters, an investment banker, attached a 'Fake Bomb Collar' around her neck.

The offender was imprisoned for just over 13 years.

Modern Blackmail

Cyber-crime includes what is called ransomware which involves information technology on a massive global scale, involving, it is estimated, to cost society 10 Trillion dollars annually by the year 2025, approximately, $29 Billion in Australia.

Further, it affects millions of victims, including the destruction of businesses, companies; and in many cases, families.

"Oops...Your files have been corrupted"

This is typical of the notice which appears on millions of computer systems on a regular basis, effectively 'Locking, or Freezing' the systems of personal, small business and multinational corporations, throughout the world.

This is then usually followed by a ransom note, demanding payment.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)confirms in excess of 160 incidences of cyber crime are reported by Australians every day, including many forms of fraud; notwithstanding what has already been discussed.

ACSC also reports that two thirds of Australian organisations, similar to the statistics of many other countries, continue to pay the blackmailers.

This, these entities argue, is that if they don't pay, the livelihoods of millions will be lost.

Lives Cost Through Ransomware

Whilst little information is specifically available, in relation to deaths, as a result of Ransomware attacks, the United Kingdom National Health Service was one of many victims in a 'Blackmail Attack' in approximately 150 countries, which occurred in 2017.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many lives were, indeed, lost, though very few countries documented precise figures, for a variety of reasons.

20,000 instances involving cancellation of surgeries, relocation of emergency patients and postponement of appointments in 16 UK hospitals, alone, was one result.

Offences Associated With Blackmail

Whilst 'Blackmail' is an offence in its own right, it has acquired an additional number of pieces of legislation; to deal, particularly, with what is considered 'Modern Blackmail', that of Ransomware', a main component of 'Cybercrime'.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs' Cyber Security Strategy 2020, Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms and the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018, essentially has oversight of other pieces of legislation, such as:

  • The Privacy Act (Cth)
  • Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)
  • Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)
  • Telecommunications (Interception and Access Act 1979 (Cth)

The Government considers such combined legislation is necessary, in conjunction with regular amendments; to deal with an anticipated 21 billion Australian information technology devices, being connected to the Internet by 2030.