Hacking gang at heart of Karnataka Bitcoin scandal tried to steal Rs 46 crore from state e-governance unit | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki, a 26-year-old hacker from Bengaluru who is at the centre of a Bitcoin corruption storm in Karnataka, had attempted to steal Rs 46 crore from the e-procurement cell of the Karnataka government by hacking into their computers in 2019 and was successful in stealing Rs 11.5 crore, according to the chargesheet filed by the police in February 2021.

The hacker is alleged to have hacked into the Karnataka government’s e-procurement cell at the Centre for E-governance at the instance of several associates in Bengaluru who had set up an elaborate money-laundering scheme to bring the stolen funds back to them.

Srikrishna, in a statement given to the Bengaluru police, which is part of a chargesheet filed in February in a separate hacking case, has claimed to have carried out hacks while sitting in a resort in the Himalayas.

He had claimed that he attempted to steal Rs 46 crore through the hack but may have succeeded in getting around Rs 11.5 crore. The plan was to transfer “a total of Rs 18 crore in one account and Rs 28 crores in the other,” Srikrishna said in his statement.

In August 2019, officials at the e-procurement cell filed complaints with the cybercrime unit of the Criminal Investigation Department of the state police saying unknown persons had stolen Rs 11.5 crore and that officials were able to stop the theft of Rs 7.37 crore.

“I initiated the second transfer of Rs 28 crores while sitting in the Himalayas. This transaction was presumably refunded because the government apparently got to know about the dubious nature of the transaction,” Srikrishna said.

According to Srikrishna’s statement to the Bengaluru police – after his arrest in November 2020 for allegedly buying drugs on the darknet using Bitcoins – he did not make any “profits” from the e-procurement cell hack and that all the funds were received by his associates.

The police have identified the son of a doctor, a law student, two sons of a former bank director, a chartered accountant’s son who studied in Netherlands as among those who used the services of Srikrishna to hack the e-procurement cell’s funds, which are Earnest Money Deposits (EDM) made by bidders, in the month of July 2019.

Police sources said much of the stolen funds were funnelled back to the gang through the hawala route to feed their need for living a high life. One of the associates has reportedly collected Rs two crore, according to Srikrishna.

“I did not profit from this, however, I did enjoy the proceeds of the crime by living in 5-star hotels and enjoying a luxurious lifestyle from the proceeds,” the hacker said in his statement.

Srikrishna has stated that he gained access to the procurement site in May/June 2019 by exploiting “a remote code execution vulnerability” which allowed him access to details of tender bids including transaction details, bid reference, payment amount, IFSC codes, account numbers of bidders etc.”

The Karnataka CID police are in the process of finalizing a chargesheet in the e-procurement cell hacking case. The hack at the e-procurement cell is incidentally not the only time that Srikrishna targeted government sites for hacking.

In one of the six hacking and Internet-linked cases filed by the Karnataka police against him since his arrest, Srikrishna is accused of carrying out a ransomware attack on the Department of Urban Land Transport on September 6, 2020, where he allegedly threatened to delete data from the firm’s servers and demanded ransom in bitcoins.

A cloud of suspicion of corruption around cases involving the hacker Srikrishna has now become a source of concern for the BJP government in Karnataka.

The disappearance of 31 Bitcoins claimed to have been seized by the police, and the hacker’s claim of stealing over 5000 Bitcoins through hacking various Bitcoin exchanges, has raised suspicion of corruption in the handling of the hacker’s case.

The opposition Congress party in Karnataka has questioned the BJP government over the disappearance of Bitcoins in the case.

“In chargesheet filed by CCB police, it is recorded that the accused looted 5,000 bitcoins through unethical hacking. Who holds these bitcoins now? Have they got it transferred to accounts of investigating agencies? Or are they clueless?” Congress leader Siddaramaiah said on social media recently while insinuating at the involvement of important people.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who recently visited Delhi and attempted to raise the Bitcoin issue in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has said that no one from the BJP government in Karnataka is involved in Bitcoin dealings with the hacker. Bommai has asked Congress to provide evidence of corruption instead of shooting in the dark.

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