A rise in the age of digital money has unfortunately resulted in a rise in digital crimes, exemplified by a surge in recent cryptocurrency thefts. Recent FBI reports show that homes of two men from Dolton, Illinois and Bloomington, Indiana were searched in an investigation into $3.3 million in various stolen cryptocurrencies.
FBI reports show that a larger ring of thieves is responsible and organized the hackings in online first-person shooter game, Call of Duty. On Jan. 31, the man from Bloomington was apprehended by the FBI and has since been providing information. He claims no prior affiliation with the hacking group and said he met them for the first time using the in-game chat functions.
The man, who claims he was a victim himself, said he was forced to participate in the hacking operation after being intimidated by a “SWATting” call. SWATting is a form of harassment under the guise of a prank call to law enforcement in which a false emergency — a hostage situation or bomb threat for instance — is reported. The call seeks to convince local law enforcement to dispatch a SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team to raid an individual’s home.
The actual ringleaders gave the man information on intended victims and had him infiltrate their phones to gain access to cryptocurrency wallets. With access to an individual’s phone, a hacker can access emails, reset passwords, and bypass two-factor authentication with ease. Allegedly, over 100 phones were compromised by the hackers. The FBI has in-game chat records implying further extortion of these victims.
The FBI was tipped off to the hacking by the Forecast Foundation, developers of Ethereum based dApp, Augur. Augur allows users to make bets on topics like political elections, company forecasts, and even the weather. Users bet on these events with Augur’s native currency, the Reputation Token (REP). Developers caught on to about $805,000 worth of REP was stolen from various wallets.
The Bloomington man is reported to “ have done nothing but cooperate with Augur and the FBI.” The man from Dolton could not be reached, but his house was raided on August 1, and the FBI seized computers and cell phones. There’s been no indication that the stolen cryptocurrencies might be recovered.
In a space preaching individual sovereignty, security, and accountability recovering and ensuring stolen assets can prove difficult.