On Monday, India’s Madhya Pradesh police department swooped in to arrest two individuals for credit card hacking. Police said the two are part of a larger international criminal gang trading credit card data on the dark web. Looking to the future, securing personal finances electronically is only going to get harder — but is the traditional financial system even up to the task?
A Brief PSA: Bitcoin Is Better Than Credit Cards
For the record, public ledger payment networks like Bitcoin and blockchain technology are “safer” than credit cards. Handing over card numbers and dates is basically handing over your entire credit or account balance, and trusting recipients to be responsible with it. They often aren’t.
Making a bitcoin transaction, however, involves giving permission for that transaction and amount only. No-one sees your secret number. Could this be the proper way to handle electronic payments?
The fact that Bitcoin is decentralized and non-official discourages many from using it. However, with more and more influencers supporting cryptocurrencies, it seems a safer financial world is possible.
Back to India: Cyber Crime up 350% in Recent Years
Now, back to the Indian case: According to DeepDotWeb, the arrested pair were found to be part of a much larger gang run by a Pakistani national named Shaikh Afzal, and the alias “Shozi”. The individuals used stolen cards to make high-end online purchases, which police described as “absurd and reckless”. They included designer outfits and luxury vacations abroad.
Jitendra Singh, superintendent of police (SP) at the State Cyber Cell’s “Indore” unit, said the whole situation came to light after a complaint lodged by a bank official from the Agar Malwa district.
The complaint came after Rs 72,401 (about $1,120 USD) was charged to his own credit account without his permission.
This is just one incident, but it reflects a far wider trend. Online security is getting worse, not better. Over the past few years, cybercrime in India has surged by 350 percent, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Gang Used Russian Darknet Market Site
According to Superintendent Singh, gang leader Shozi operates from Lahore, Pakistan. The cons run their activity with the help of a Russian darknet market called FE Shop. These sources illegally trade credit or debit card information. Additionally, it also deals in other financial transaction details.
After obtaining credit card details, gang members made purchases of tourism packages and airline tickets for Thailand, Dubai and Hong Kong. Also, expensive purchases were made from foreign countries.
One of the pair’s past job as a manager at a highly reputable bank landed him the skills to use the credit cards illegally.
Credit Card Details for Bitcoin on the Dark Web
“The gang members used bitcoin to purchase the hacked details of credit cards on the dark web. If this payment is measured in terms of Indian currency, it costs Rs 500 to Rs 800 to buy details off every credit card,” said Superintendent Singh.
The duo lived a luxurious lifestyle and traveled to several countries for holidays. Singh continued “Nadar bought an Armani suit for his girlfriend for Rs 66,000 from Bangkok.”
The police tracked the pair to their addresses as they booked a flight online.
Is Cryptocurrency Really a Safer Mode of Payment?
The hacker gang in this case targeted e-commerce websites that did not require a one-time password. Therefore, the owner of the card only got notified once the cards were misused. Banking security is supposedly improving, but smarter hackers always seem to be a step ahead of their progress.
Singh stated the extent of the fraud could be far higher. “The gang has been operating since 2013. We have so far identified 13 victims and are still calculating the amount defrauded.” 25 more debit cards were recovered, and police are still looking for a third gang member.
Blockchain technology receives praise for security and transparency, but mass adoption has a long way to go. Payments via cryptocurrencies are safer, but reports of criminals using them to conduct their business creates doubt in many.
Online payment technology has streamlined commerce, but it has also streamlined hackers’ ability to acquire confidential banking details. Security issues with e-commerce websites have cost many in loss of funds.
Overall, such security breaches are discouraging the advancement towards digitalization and electronic currencies.
Have you ever had a credit card or ID document stolen? What happened? Let us know in the comments.
Images via Pixabay, IndianExpress