Portal breach: charge sheet filed against hacker, 15 others

THE CRIMINAL Investigation Department (CID) of Karnataka police has filed a charge sheet against 16 people, including 26-year-old international hacker Srikrishna Ramesh alias Sriki, for involvement in the 2019 hacking of the state government’s e-procurement portal to steal Rs 11.5 crore.

The CID filed the charge sheet on Wednesday even as several crimes allegedly involving Srikrishna – including hacking of international bitcoin exchanges and disappearance of stolen bitcoins – is set to be raised by the opposition Congress in the legislature during the ongoing winter session.

The CID has filed charges of theft, receiving of stolen property, disposal of stolen property, destruction of evidence and other criminal acts against Srikrishna, his associates Sunish Hegde, a civil contractor, Hemanth Mudappa, a racer, and 13 others.

Srikrishna is alleged to have hacked into the e-procurement cell at the Centre for E-governance in 2019 at the instance of his associates who set up a money laundering scheme to bring the stolen funds back to them. In August 2019, officials at the e-procurement cell filed complaints with the cyber crime unit of the CID, saying Rs 11.5 crore of earnest money deposits (EMD) have been stolen from the cell and they were able to stop the theft of another Rs 7.37 crore.

The hacking was discovered on July 30 that year by a financial consultant at the e-procurement cell while checking the approved list of refunds of EMDs made against tender bids. The consultant found an unauthorised instruction was issued for the unique registration number used by the government for online banking to transfer Rs 7.37 crore as EMD despite the government not approving the refund. The transfer was stopped before it could be executed.