Learnt coding at age of 8, bought drugs with first catch, claims bitcoin hacker

In a voluntary statement given to police, Srikrishna, the 26-year-old the hacker at the centre of the bitcoin scam in Karnataka, has made a series of baffling claims about his stint in cybercrime

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Srikrishna alias Sriki, the 26-year-old the hacker at the centre of the bitcoin scam in Karnataka, has claimed that he learnt coding when he was just eight years old and hacked a cryptocurrency exchange five years ago with his team.

Srikrishna was arrested by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) of police on November 17, 2020 on charges of drug dealing. He had purchased drugs from international drug dealers on the dark web through bitcoins. The hacker during interrogation confessed to hacking and stealing from three bitcoin exchanges, 14 company websites and a government portal.  The CCB had recovered 31 bitcoins valued at ₹9 crore from his possession during his arrest in 2020.

In a “voluntary” statement given to the CCB, which is now part of the chargesheet against him, Srikrishna has made a series of baffling claims regarding his stint in cybercrime.

While police are still verifying claims made in the statement, Srikrishna’s lawyers have opposed the claims in a chargesheet filed in a local Bengaluru court.

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In the statement, Srikrishna claims he learnt Java, the software programming language, when he was in Class 4.

“In Class 4, I learned the basics of web exploitation, Java, Reserve engineering and wrote my first bot for a game called RuneScape. This was my first attempt at reverse engineering obfuscated games and binary exploitation,” he said in the statement.

Also read: Karnataka bitcoin scam: Cong MLA seeks details of ‘seizure’ from accused Ramesh

He said he soon joined an Internet Relay Chat channel, used by a group of unethical hackers, from where he learnt hacking.  He gradually learned the ropes of script kiddie, the basics of database, SQL injections, local file inclusions, remote file inclusions, remote code executions, shells, web application exploitation, and source code analysis during his school days.

In his statement, Srikrishna says, soon after he acquired the knowhow of hacking websites, and was promoted as the moderator of the group and an administrator of the IRC network when he was in Class 9. Around the same time, he was also being mentored by international hackers in financial hacking.

He says, during the completion of his schooling, he used to earn hundreds of dollars every month by hacking into an online game along with a co-hacker from Sydney.  He was introduced to bitcoins during his intermediate degree and learned that the price of bitcoins was $100 per coin.

Stating that he first used the bitcoins to buy narcotics from the darknet market, he says, “Due to the pseudo-anonymous nature of bitcoin, a person by the names of ‘Ross Ulbricht’ made the first darknet market from which I initially imported drugs to India for personal consumption. This market was called Silk Road 1.0. I ordered several packages in two years which all successfully cleared customs.”

In his statement, Srikrishna claims that he was addicted to drugs by the time he was 17 and ran away to the Himalayas with a friend called Ritvik, finally landing in Badrinath (in Uttarakhand). The duo were traced by police and brought to Bengaluru after their parents filed missing person cases.

He says he learned more about bitcoin trading while pursuing BSC in Computer Science at the Eindhoven University of Technology in Amsterdam.

He claimed that Bitfinex was his first bitcoin exchange hack and that he was the first person to hack it, stealing 120,000 bitcoins worth $72 million in August 2016.

Police have said that Srikrishna who gave a list of all his hacking cases – from booking movie and IPL tickets to helping his friends with proxy attendance by hacking the college website – almost bragged about the crimes as if they were key milestones of his life.

“Like most of the criminals he wants to be famous and he wants to be known as, in his own words, a cool hacker, The statement at one point began looking bragging. We are still unable to ascertain a lot of claims made by them, where he claims to have hacked into websites and servers. Even though he knows the consequences of admitting to hacking these sites, he can’t help himself,” a Bengaluru police officer told Hindustan Times.

While his first bitcoin hacking was Bitfinex, the second one involved a speak-phishing attack “which led to two Israeli hackers working for the army getting access to the computer of the employees…”

Amid allegations against his government for not initiating enough action in the bitcoin scam, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai on Friday held a meeting with former chief minister BS Yediyurappa and later met BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel for about an hour.

Also read: Amid Karnataka bitcoin row, hacker Srikrishna gets arrested for brawling

The opposition Congress has alleged that the BJP government is trying to shield “influential politicians” involved in the bitcoin scam. The party has alleged that the scam may actually involve more money as that has been found so far, as illegal transactions worth ₹5,240 crore took place in just two days – on December 1, 2020 and April 14, 2021.

The Congress has also demanded to know why Srikrishna has been in custody for more than 100 days and yet no action has been taken against him. The party has also demanded a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the issue.

 

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