Hackers Threaten to Release 9/11 Insurance Files Unless They're Paid a Bitcoin Ransom

Francisco Memoria

A group of hackers known as TheDarkOverlord has recently claimed to have hacked a law firm handling cases related to the September 11 attacks in the United States, and threatened to release thousands of documents to the public, unless it gets paid an undisclosed amount in bitcoin.

According to Motherboard, the hacker group has in the past attempted to extort a production studio working for Netflix, and various other businesses. On Pastebin, TheDarkOverlord revealed the 9/11 files were taken from firms like Hiscox Syndicates Ltd, and Silverstein Properties, which owned the World Trade Center complex.

Speaking to the publication a Hiscox Group spokesperson confirmed a law firm working with it was breached, but noted its own IT infrastructure and system were “unaffected by this incident.” It admitted, however, the stolen files are related to litigation around the attacks.

To prove it has the documents, TheDarkOverlord published a set of letters and emails that mention various law firms, including the Transport Security Administration (TSA), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has revealed it’s investigating the incident.

Through a tweet, the group noted appeared to be trying to capitalize on 9/11 conspiracy theories, as it claimed it was going to be providing some of the conspiracies surrounding the attacks “many answers.”

In its extorsion note, the group included a link to a 10GB archive of the files it has stolen, and has revealed it’ll be slowly releasing the decryption keys to these files unless the victims pay the hackers the amount it wants in BTC. It has also given its victims the option to contact them – and pay them BTC – to have their names censored in the documents.

The note reads:

Pay the fuck up, or we're going to bury you with this. If you continue to fail us, we'll escalate these releases by releasing the keys, each time a Layer is opened, a new wave of liability will fall upon you,

While the amount of BTC the group is asking for isn’t public, TheDarkOverlord is said to also be offering the files in an unnamed dark web hacking forum. Notably one of the breaches seemingly dates back to April of last year. While the hacking group was paid its ransom at the time, it claims its victim violated an “agreement.”

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."