The hackers, known as ‘Dark Overlord,’ claim to have a 9/11 database stolen from international insurers and were demanding a Bitcoin ransom from the companies – before pivoting to a “tiered compensation plan” where the public could make Bitcoin payments to unlock the documents.
Last week, Dark Overlord released 650 documents it says are related to 9/11 and claims to have more than 18,000 in total.
But Yaya J. Fanusie, senior fellow at the Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, a Washington-based think tank, says hacker groups like Dark Overlord rarely have legitimate data.
He told Coin Rivet: “This looks very much like a scam.
“With our lives getting more digitised, it gives scammers greater incentive to generate extortion schemes regarding private and corporate data.
He added: “There are lots of schemes out there where criminals try to blackmail people seeking cryptocurrency.
“Often, the criminals don’t actually have any real data and are just looking for victims who will be scared into paying anyway.
“The thing is, these scams are so cheap to put out there. Even if just a few people fall for the scheme, it’s profitable for the scammers.”
A 2017 threat report by the UK National Cyber Security Centre mentioned Dark Overlord.
It stated: “The group has a history of hacking (organisations) to obtain sensitive information before demanding money in exchange for not leaking it to the public domain.
“They leak snippets of data to the media to encourage them to report on their activity. This is aimed at ‘proving’ that a breach has taken place, and increases the pressure on the victim to pay the ransom.”
Last year, Mr Fanusie outlined how neo-Nazis and supporters of terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda are being scammed by elaborate cryptocurrency fraudsters.
The issue hit the headlines when a far-right group calling themselves Order of Dawn started a cryptocurrency crowdfunding campaign for their violent ‘Reconquest’ of Europe.
Order of Dawn is opposed to African and Middle Eastern migration to Europe, calling it an “invasion” and a “genocide”.
However, many alleged extremist groups are likely to be fraudsters without a political agenda exploiting supporters, according to Mr Fanusie.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.