The U.S. Department of Justice released an announcement that a member of the infamous hacking group, The Dark Overlord, received his sentence to 5 years in prison and has been directed to pay $1.4 million in damages.
The Dark Overlord hacking group began attacking U.S. institutions in 2016. The hackers acquired access to the systems of organizations through brute force attacks on Remote Desktop Protocol, and then stole information from victim firms and threatened to peddle the stolen data files on criminal marketplaces in case there is no ransom payment. The cybercriminals asked for ransom payments of $75,000 to $350,000 in Bitcoin and released several threats in case there is no ransom payment. In several situations, people in the victim organizations got personal threats along with their loved ones through email, phone, and SMS.
The Dark Overlord’s attacked victims were accounting companies, healthcare organizations, and other firms. Healthcare company victims included Farmington, Swansea, IL-based Quest Records, MO-based Midwest Orthopedic Group, Athens, GA-based Athens Orthopedic Clinic, and Prosthetics & Orthotics Care located in St. Louis. The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights recently penalized Athens Orthopedic Clinic a total of $1.5 million for its HIPAA violations, which was uncovered while investigating The Dark Overlord hacking episode.
The British national, Nathan Wyatt, 39 years old, was detained by UK police force in September 2017 in connection with the hacking of the iCloud account of Pippa Middleton, the sibling of the Cambridge’s Duchess. About 3,000 photos were stolen and the hacker issued a ransom demand of £50,000. He was set free but was later on charged on 20 counts of fraudulence by false representation, 2 counts of blackmail, and one count of having an identity document with the intention to deceive. One attack was the blackmailing of a law agency in the United Kingdom in connection with the Dark Overlord hacking group. Nathan will serve a sentence of 3 years imprisonment in the UK for his crimes.
In November 2017, Wyatt was subsequently charged by a grand jury for his association in the Dark Overlord attacks involving 5 victim firms in the USA and was deported to America in December 2019 where he stayed in custody.
Wyatt was charged on 6 counts. 1 count of conspiracy, 2 counts of aggravated identity theft, and 3 counts of threatening to harm a protected computer. Wyatt applied for a plea bargain and decided to plead guilty to the conspiracy case in exchange for the discharge of the remaining five counts.
Wyatt confessed to being part of The Dark Overlord hacking group. He also said that he and his co-conspirators got sensitive information from victim organizations, such as patient healthcare information, and threatened to expose or sell the data files when no ransom is paid.
The Department of Justice stated that Wyatt didn’t direct the attacks and wasn’t a leader of the group. Wyatt’s function was creating, confirming, and keeping payment, virtual private network, and communication accounts that were employed in the process of the strategy to deliver intimidating and extortionate communications to victims.
U.S. District Judge Ronnie White, from the Eastern District of Missouri, passed a sentence on Wyatt to serve 5 years in prison minus the time previously served and instructed Wyatt to give $1,467,048 in compensation to the victim firms.
Nathan Wyatt employed his technical skills to target the private data of Americans and manipulate the sensitive nature of their medical and financial data for his own personal profit. The Department of Justice Criminal Division Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbit said that the guilty plea and sentence show the department’s dedication to making sure that attackers who strive to benefit by illegally prying the privacy of US citizens will be discovered and held responsible, regardless of where they may be situated.