The phenomenon of “rubber hose decryption” robbery took a harrowing turn recently when criminals disguised as police entered the home of a Dutch Bitcoin trader and allegedly tortured him in front of his 4-year-old daughter, The Independent reports.
The attack reportedly took place in the Dutch city of Drenthe, and police are now seeking three suspects they believe threatened the man with firearms before “brutal(ly) tortur(ing)” him with a drill in an hour-long attack.
The suspects are believed to have fled in a vehicle after failing to obtain Bitcoin passwords (private keys) from the victim.
Without such passwords, cryptocurrencies cannot be transferred to attackers’ digital wallets.
The term “rubber hose decryption” is used in cryptocurrency circles to describe crypto thefts involving violent, in-person confrontations.
While cryptocurrencies stored properly offline (in hardware “cold wallets”) can be difficult to steal via hack, crypto users often remind each other to be discreet about their holdings because of the risk of in-person robberies.
Known kidnappings involving cryptocurrency ransoms have occurred in Ukraine, Isreal, and South Africa.
The Independent reports that the first-known instance of the targeting of a crypto investor occurred in 2015, when a New York City firefighter named Dwayne Richards was stabbed in Brooklyn by muggers demanding that he send Bitcoins to their digital wallets.
In 2017, kidnappers in Ukraine successfully extorted $1 million dollars in Bitcoins after kidnapping and ransoming Pavel Lerner, owner of a UK-based cryptocurrency trading platform called EXMO finance.
Lerner was reportedly not hurt in the attack, though he was, “in a state of major stress” following his release.
In January 2018, cryptocurrency trader Danny Aston was attacked in his South Oxfordshire home and tied up by criminals demanding bitcoins.
Aston was reportedly released after transferring an unknown quantity of bitcoins to the attackers.