South Africa: Three Detained After Kidnappers Demand 15 Bitcoin Ransom to Free Teen

Jordana Sacks
  • Three people have been detained following the kidnapping of 13-year-old Katlego Marite from Witbank, South Africa.
  • His abductors are said to have demanded 15 bitcoins in exchange for his release.

Three individuals have been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of Katlego Marite, a 13-year-old from Witbank, South Africa. The criminals demanded a 15 BTC ransom in exchange for the victim’s safe return.

The teenage boy was abducted on Sunday May 20, and police are currently pursuing a lead from a former colleague of Katlego’s mother, who rushed to the house after hearing of the child’s abduction from locals.

The man was able to show the family CCTV footage from his neighbor’s property, which depicted the moments immediately before and after the youngster was forced into a Toyota Corolla, which took off at speed with the boy in-situ.

Miriam Marite’s colleague made the decision to pursue the vehicle, which was later discovered nearby. The 13-year-old’s mother relayed that:

“He said to us, ‘Let me drive quickly to the location to go to different taverns and where they drink’, and as he was there, [at a place] they call Lunchbox, he called us and said he has seen the car.”

Miriam Marite

According to Mrs Marite, her family, members of the community crime watch group, and police all rushed to the scene, where three men were discovered in a car much like the one in which Katlego had been abducted. All were immediately taken into custody. However, Brigadier Leonard Hlathi clarified that none of the suspects in question have been arrested or charged, although it remains unclear whether or not they have yet been released. Their vehicle also remains in police possession.

On the day of the abduction, the family report that a ransom note was received by them. Threating to hang and decapitate Katlego unless a fee was paid, it demanded the delivery of 15 bitcoins in exchange for the boy’s safe return. The ransom note read the ransom was "non-negotiable."

Mrs Marite shared the difficulties this had caused them, for not only does this sum equate to a substantial sum - around R1.5 million - but the family wasn't even entirely sure of what bitcoin was until the concept was explained to them.

Although it remains unclear whether the exchange was made, or why exactly the family was targeted, breaking reports suggest that Katlego has now been found alive and well.

Featured image from Max Pixel

CZ Explains How Binance Dealt With Aftermath of $40 Million Theft

On Sunday (May 19), Changpeng Zhao (aka "CZ"), the Co-Founder and CEO of digital asset exchange Binance, told the crypto community what he and his team had been up to since the May 7 security breach that resulted in a theft of over 7,000 BTC from their Bitcoin hot wallet. 

What Happened on May 7?

According to CZ, the hackers involved in the security breach somehow managed to get control over a number of user accounts and structured large withdrawals from these accounts in such a way thay managed not to be detected/noticed by Binance's "pre-withdrawal risk management checks." Their "post-withdrawal risk monitoring system" only noticed something was wrong after the hackers had moved the stolen BTC off of the exchange via a single transaction, at which time it immediately suspended all "subsequent withdrawals." 

At first, the Binance team was not exactly sure what had happened, and so they decided that the safest course of action was for CZ to send out a tweet to say that the "withdrawal servers" were in "unscheduled maintenance mode" while the team was investigating the incident. 

Communication With the Crypto Community

Once the team had confirmed that the exchange had been hacked, information about the security incident was broadcast to the outside world via all of Binance's communication channels (such as Telegram, Twitter, and Medium). 

Since the team could not be sure which user accounts the hackers had access to, it was decided that it would be too risky to allow further withdrawals to be made until the team had the chance to make "significant changes" to the platform (to make it more secure). Binance's announcement on May 8 estimated that the exchange needed to do "a thorough security review" and estimated that this would take about "ONE WEEK," and that during this period, "deposits and withdrawals" would need to "REMAIN SUSPENDED."

By being fully transparent in their communication with Binance users, they were able to receive "tremendous support" from them.

CZ's Periscope AMA Session on May 8

Seeing CZ live put much of the Binance community "at ease." Unfortunately, because CZ had been up all night, he was not in an ideal mental state when he did the AMA. Just before the AMA, his team told him that a Bitcoin Core developer had suggested that it would be technically possible to roll back the single Bitcoin transaction carried out by the hackers by "hugely incentivizing the miners." CZ made the unfortunate mistake of mentioning this "reorg" idea (which he now realizes is a "taboo topic") during the AMA, for which he took a heavy beating (especially from hardcore Bitcoin maximalists) on Twitter (and elsewhere). 

CZ's Mental State Right After Being Told About the Bitcoin Theft

Although he was in a "F***, F***, F***” state" for around 10 seconds, a few moments later, he "began to come to terms with it," and a quick mental calculation told him that the theft of around 7000 BTC (equivalent of around $40 million at the time) could be fully covered by their SAFU fund. Meanwhile, his team had already gone into "War Mode", and their professionalism and support cheered up CZ. 

Support From the Crypto Community

Binance received support from many sources: people defending him and Binance on social media platforms, and helping to answer questions; the Binance Angels (who are all volunteers) "addressing questions" and "reassuring" users on "multiple communities"; analytics firms helping with the tracking of the stolen funds; exchanges and wallet services offering to help by blocking "any deposits associated with the hacker addresses"; and "numerous offers for help from law enforcement agencies around the world."

A Blessing in Disguise?

"Speaking with various team members, and as correctly analyzed by community members, such as Gautam Chhugani, this incident may actually be a good thing for us in the long run. Security is a never-ending practice. There are always more things to do in security, and we have implemented many of them in this last week and will continue to implement more in the future. Given this incident, Binance has actually become far more secure than before, not just in the affected areas, but as a whole."