Has Bitcoin become the new ransom money?

When an Information Technology (IT) company in Mysuru recently became the target of a ‘denial-of-service’ attack, the attackers demanded Bitcoins in return for sharing the key to restore the company’s computer systems.

The attackers demanded management Bitcoins — virtual money through Bitcoin-dealing websites — in return for the key.

The management, whose work was suffering on account of the attack as the computer network was unavailable to the workforce, eventually paid through Bitcoins, revealed H.S. Renukaradhya, Inspector of Police, Cyber Crime Department, Mysuru.

He said it would be virtually impossible to trace the beneficiary of the Bitcoins, whose value ranges from $350 to 400 per Bitcoin.

“Asking for depositing money in a particular bank account is now passé. The new-age hackers are demanding Bitcoins,” he said.

A few weeks ago, a private company in Mysuru complied with an email request from a Japanese company with whom it was engaged in business, and deposited Rs. 9 lakh into a bank account in the U.K.

When the Mysuru-based company did not receive the consignment of metal fasteners for which it had made the payment, it called up the Japanese company, which said it had no record of the request or the payment. Only when the company lodged a complaint with the police did it learn that it had become a victim of spear-phishing.

Spear-phishing is an email that appears to be sent from an individual or a business familiar to you, but is actually sent by fraudsters.

Revealing the incident at an awareness session on ‘Cyber Crimes and Cyber Law,’ organised by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) here on Tuesday, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Cyber Crime Department, Mysuru, K.R. Kantharaj, said the fraudster had merely interchanged one letter in the email address.

The fraudster had replaced “nuts” with “unts” in the address and the recipient was unable to make out the difference, he said.

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