A hacking group is donating stolen money to charity in what is seen as a mysterious first for cyber-crime that’s puzzling experts.
Darkside hackers claim to have extorted millions of dollars from companies, but say they now want to “make the world a better place”.
In a post on the dark web, the gang posted receipts for $10,000 in Bitcoin donations to two charities.
One of them, Children International, says it will not be keeping the money.
The move is being seen as a strange and troubling development, both morally and legally.
The hackers posted their tax receipt for the $10,000 donation.
In the blog post on 13 October, the hackers claim they only target large profitable companies with their ransomware attacks. The attacks hold organisations’ IT systems hostage until a ransom is paid.
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 change someone’s life. Today we sent (sic) the first donations.”
The cyber-criminals posted the donation along with tax receipts they received in exchange for the 0.88 Bitcoin they had sent to two charities, The Water Project and Children International.
Children International supports children, families and communities in India, the Philippines, Colombia, Ecuador, Zambia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States.
A Children International spokesperson told the BBC: “If the donation is linked to a hacker, we have no intention of keeping it”.
The Water Project, which works to improve access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa, has not responded to requests for comment.
Another receipt was posted on the dark web blog showing a $10,000 donation
Brett Callow, Threat Analyst at cyber-security company Emsisoft, said: “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.”
The Darkside hacker group is relatively new on the scene, but analysis of the crypto-currency market confirms they are actively extorting funds from victims.
There is also evidence they may have links to other cyber-criminal groups responsible for high-profile attacks on companies including Travelex, which was crippled by ransomware in January.
The way the hackers paid the charities is also a possible cause for concern for law enforcement.