Hawala Operators, Ransomware Hackers Now Demand Payment in Bitcoins

Tuesday's collapse comes just six weeks after bitcoin hit a record high of $19,511, fuelled by a flood of speculators looking to make a quick buck.

New Delhi: Bitcoin is proving to be a challenge for investigative agencies in India as criminals are now switching to the cryptocurrency for transactions.

DCP Crime Bhisham Singh confirmed to News18 that hawala transactions were indeed taking place through the digital currency and said, “Hawala operators are looking at Bitcoin as one of the safest means to transfer and receive money. The price of Bitcoin, which remain volatile, is fixed at the time of striking the deal and money is transferred digitally.”

With hawala trading now shifting online, it’s not just local police but also national investigative agencies who are looking into the new trend.

Tracking these transactions also becomes difficult as Bitcoin uses servers which are not in India.

Furthermore, even ransomware operators are switching to the digital currency. Delhi Police has registered three FIRs related to ransomware in Central Delhi.

First of the cases pertains to the leading book publisher – Rachna Sagar.

The educational publisher’s systems were hacked and it displayed a message, “All your files have been encrypted. And if you want to decrypt them contact us and make the payment in BITCOIN after which your files will be decrypted.”

In another case, a Hardware merchant’s systems were hacked with a message left on the systems. “All your data have been encrypted and to restore the same BITCOINS are required,” read the message.

“The hacker made a case id and left an email address, which has been tracked to being from the US. They have asked for Bitcoins worth 1750 US dollar,” said crime branch ACP Sandeep Lamba.

The third case was lodged by a company trading in speciality chemicals.

The online attackers hacked the company’s data and customers’ email. “An email was sent to our customers from the company’s email account asking for a transfer of our outstanding money to a particular account,” said the complainant.

Through the account number, Delhi Police tracked down the person involved and arrested him. The accused is claiming innocence and says his account number was sought by a third person.