Cybersecurity Expert on Dark Overlord's 9/11 Data: It Might Paint Bigger Picture

© Flickr / Cyril Attias9/11 Terror Attacks: World Trade Center
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A hacker group known as the Dark Overlord has promised to release more stolen legal documents related to the 9/11 attacks in New York and has demanded ransom for the data. Sputnik discussed the publications with Gary Miliefsky, a renowned cybersecurity expert.

Sputnik: What is your take on the timing of the release of the stolen documents? Why have they done this almost 18 years after the attacks?

Gary Miliefsky: I'm not sure how the timing could impact anything. If they were going to release them on an anniversary of 9/11, that would probably have a larger impact, but they have released over 650 MB and I believe if you continue to pay them in bitcoins, they will continue to release what they call the next layer in their data theft of materials that they've stolen related to 9/11.

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Sputnik: What do we know about this group? Why are they being allowed, really, by law enforcement to ask for and gather ransom online?

Gary Miliefsky: These are great questions. First off, in 2018, around May, the Serbian police arrested a man who was accused of having ties to the Dark Overlord group and it's really hard to track anyone down. For example, Anonymous has been around forever and nobody knows who exactly is a member of Anonymous; it's kind of one of those things where if they are really smart and hiding there, let's call it "cookie crumbs", to where they're located, using strong encryption and spoofing and other related technologies, it's really hard to find them.

Sputnik: I remember speaking to a number of guests about cybersecurity — we were talking about hacking attacks at the time — and they were saying it's impossible to find out where they originate from; you can't even pinpoint the country exactly.

Gary Miliefsky: Actually that's one of the dark sides of crypto coin, or bitcoin, technology, but the good side of it is that it gives you back some privacy and anonymity in your transactions, but criminals immediately grabbed on to that model, and you've heard of a lot of attacks recently with ransomware and this is yet another ransomware attack when they're actually saying we're holding documents hostage, but it's not on your computer, which normally ransomware is software on your computer that locks it up — which is what happened to the NHS in the UK, the 1,400 computers locked up and they had to pay bitcoins to get them unlocked.

So what these folks have done is they've stolen a trove of documents, for some reason they've been hacking movie companies like Netflix and others, and insurance companies for years now and it turns out, probably, in their hacking attempts into insurance companies they found this trove of documents related to 9/11.

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Sputnik: Some guests have been saying that the fact that it is insurance companies might make it interesting, in that they tend to ask questions, that the lawyers ask questions that might be rather interesting.

Gary Miliefsky: Yes, you see the insurance companies who paid out claims, then filed these alternative lawsuits where they're saying we want to get paid back. Let's say there was a manufacturing defect in a car and your insurance company covered it for you, they may go after the car manufacturer. So these documents are very similar in that they're showing insurance companies trying to recoup their losses for payments for 9/11, and in the recouping of their losses, the questions that will be uncovered are "who did they sue?", "why did they sue them?", "what information was uncovered in these lawsuits?", "did they get their money back and who paid them?".

Sputnik: How valuable is the data released by the hackers?

Gary Miliefsky: It seems extremely valuable and I think that if continued layers come out, it will start to paint a post-9/11 picture of how huge claims are paid and reimbursed, and what parties are involved, there're a lot of big names in these documents.

Sputnik: Will it provide the public with more information that will differ from what we know about 9/11?

Gary Miliefsky: It might paint a bigger picture and it may provide some alternative information or some newer pieces of data that was never before made public, for whatever reason.

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Sputnik: How dangerous would you say is the fact that the group is still able to continue its hacking and extortion campaigns online and, by the looks of it, there's no way of stopping them?

Gary Miliefsky: Well you know, you look at people like Snowden, some people call him a patriot because he exposed eavesdropping technologies, other people call him a cyber-terrorist or a cybercriminal, with WikiLeaks people, have said good things, half the world probably likes the WikiLeaks site and the other half of the world doesn't. It's very interesting, but what I like to look at is knowledge is that power and information is important and power to the people; I don't think that getting information out through criminal means is a good thing, but I think that the more information that is shared with citizenry around the globe about major events, the more we will be aware to not let those kinds of things happen again in the future.

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Sputnik: Do you think we'll know more soon, or they might just be sitting on that information for a length of time?

Gary Miliefsky: The group has claimed that they will sit on it until they get paid more money. They are purely a criminal organization looking to make money off of this material and the sooner people throw more bitcoins at them, the more they'll go to the next layer.

And the bitcoin address had, I believe, up to today maybe 16 to 20 transactions, maybe about $20,000 and then they said they have five layers, so we're only at layer one, so the next layer who knows what they're going to charge for, but I think they're going to try to pull out as much money as they can and maybe the cost to see the next layer is 10x to what we've seen today. Who knows? It will be interesting to see how they get these cryptocurrencies flowing in their direction.

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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