In what seems to be a case of black hat hackers masquerading as the internet’s self-professed Robin Hoods, two charitable organizations have received mysterious bitcoin donations from a cybercriminal group.
The generous gesture is worth 0.88 BTC (around $10,000), with the donating hackers wanting to “make the world a better place.”
Hacking Corporations To Give Back To The Society?
As per the latest report published by BBC, this altruistic act of benevolence coming from online perpetrators has left cyber-crime experts puzzled. And why not? This Robin Hoodesque act move is a first and doesn’t at all follow the MO (read modus operandi) pattern of Darkside hackers.
Two charities – The Water Project and Children International, have indeed received bitcoin donations worth $10,000 (0.88 BTC) each. The online robin hoods shared the receipts for the same on the dark web.
Children International has expressed objection towards this donation and has said that they will not accept it. Speaking to BBC, a spokesperson representing the non-profits said:
If the donation is linked to a hacker, we have no intention of keeping it.
The hackers probably knew that the charities would not approve of their ‘giving back to the society’ gesture. In a recent blog post, they wrote:
We think that it’s fair that some of the money the companies have paid will go to charity.
No matter how bad you think our work is, we are pleased to know that we helped changed someone’s life. Today we sended (sic) the first donations.
What Do The Cyber Crime Experts Think Of This Bitcoin Donation?
For experts like Brett Callow, this act of hacker benevolence didn’t add up. He says that the concrete motivation for slipping a part of ransomware bounty to charities is not clear at all. The intentions of the hackers behind this act are equivocal and unusual.
What the criminals hope to achieve by making these donations is not at all clear. Perhaps it helps assuage their guilt? Or perhaps for egotistical reasons they want to be perceived as Robin Hood-like characters rather than conscienceless extortionists.
Whatever their motivations, it’s certainly a very unusual step and is, as far as I know, the first time a ransomware group has donated a portion of their profits to charity.
Hackers Used The Giving Block To Donate BTC
As per the revelation, hackers leveraged the cryptocurrency donation facilitating platform, The Giving Block (TGB), to make the bitcoin donations. Because the platform allows anyone with BTC/crypto (ETH, LTC) funds to donate anonymously. Data reveals that 67 charities use the firm’s service to receive bitcoin and crypto donations.
It turns out that TGB was not really aware of the source of these bitcoin funds. In an interview regarding the matter, TGB assured to return the donated BTC to their rightful owners. If they found out that hackers made those donations. They said:
We are still working to determine if these funds were actually stolen.
If it turns out these donations were made using stolen funds, we will of course begin the work of returning them to the rightful owner.
The fact they used crypto will make it easier, not harder, to catch them.
Anonymous Donations From Illicit Sources Point To Money Laundering: Chainalysis
Philip Gradwell, a cryptocurrency investigator working with Chainalysis, also commented on this case. He said that anonymous BTC/crypto donations are questionable, as they pave the way for rampant money laundering. Especially if bad actors make those donations.
He impressed upon the fact that law officials have developed a certain proficiency in tracking the movement of crypto funds from wallet to wallet. But it is quite difficult to figure out who actually owns the wallet. And that’s why Philip feels that:
All crypto-currency businesses need a full range of Anti-Money Laundering measures including a Know Your Customer (KYC) program of basic background checks, so that they can understand who is behind the transactions their business facilitates.
As for non-profit organizations, they despised the idea of hackers making donations from ill-gotten funds. They would not be comfortable and would never ‘knowingly’ accept funds from spurious sources. That’s what they told BBC.