Email warning 'large explosions' in Karnataka sent to CM, Cabinet colleagues

The purported contained two alerts and a ransom demand of $2.5 million.
Last Updated 05 March 2024, 14:32 IST

Bengaluru: An email warning of "large explosions" throughout Karnataka was sent to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, Home Minister G Parameshwara and some senior police officers. The email was sent on March 2 at 2.48 pm. 

The purported email sent by Shahidkhan10786@protonmail.com contained two alerts and a ransom demand of $2.5 million (an estimated Rs 20.72 crore). 

The first alert read: "What are your thoughts on the movie trailer? If you don’t provide us with 2.5 million dollars, we will cause large explosions on buses, trains, temples, hotels, and public areas throughout Karnataka." 

The second alert read: "We want to show you one more trailer. We are going to explode the next one in the Ambari Utsav bus. After the Ambari Utsav bus blast, we will raise our demands on social media. And will upload the screenshots of the mail sent to you on social media. We will tweet information about the next explosion.” 

Shahidkhan11786@protonmail.com was shared on the email for "further communication". 

The purported email was received just a day after the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast at the popular Rameshwaram Cafe in Whitefield’s Brookefield area. Initial investigation by the city police’s Central Crime Branch (CCB) yielded no arrests, and the case was officially taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday. 

Responding to the threat emails, Shivakumar said on Tuesday: “There's a ransom demand. It has been sent to the Bengaluru police commissioner. The police are on the job.” 

Well-placed police sources told DH that a case regarding the same was registered at the Cyber Crime Police Station, which is supervised by the Central Crime Branch (CCB), and investigations have begun. 

Encrypted email service provider

Protonmail.com is an end-to-end encrypted service provider used to send the threat email based in Plan-les-Ouates, Switzerland. Due to the encrypted security offered by the provider, anyone would be able to create an email ID and use the service anonymously. 

Under a paid plan, ProtonMail also offers an "encrypted email with premium features and free VPN", while their free service offers "free encrypted email and calendar". 

Recent media reports claimed that the Centre was mulling over blocking Protonmail after a request by Tamil Nadu police over hoax bomb threats to schools in Chennai. 

Interestingly, in November 2023, when 70 schools in Bengaluru Rural and Bengaluru Urban received ‘hoax’ bomb threats, the emails were sent via Beeble.com – an email provider based in Nicosia, Cyprus, that also offers end-to-end encryption. The probe into the email threat to school case hit a dead end, officials had said.

(Published 05 March 2024, 14:32 IST)

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