A hacker group is demanding Bitcoin payments to prevent the release of litigation documents relating to the destruction of the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The group, called The Dark Overlord, claimed in a Dec. 31, 2018, statement posted to Pastebin, an online text sharing platform, to have hacked Hiscox Ltd. unit Hiscox Syndicates Ltd. and Lloyd's of London, as well as World Trade Center complex owner Silverstein Properties Inc. — which the companies all deny. The self-styled hackers demanded that the companies involved — airlines, government agencies, "dozens" of solicitor firms, insurers and "many others" — pay up or "we're going to bury you with this."
The group said it has a cache of more than 18,000 documents, suggesting that they contained information disclosed during litigation around the World Trade Center disaster but not made public. It claimed that it would release these in five stages, each "containing ever increasingly scandalous materials ... if our requests from the involved companies are not met."
It published links to images of 16 pages from the document cache, allegedly from law firm Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin, now known as Husch Blackwell, which it describes as "proof of our trove." Companies can pay to suppress information relating to them, The Dark Overlord said, adding that it is offering for a limited time to sell the documents to organizations such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda and to countries considering themselves "a competing nation state" of the U.S.
The group said: "We're not motivated by any political thoughts. We're not hacktivists. We're motivated only by our pursuit of internet money (Bitcoin)."
Hiscox said in a Dec. 31 statement that the claims, which also appeared on Twitter, related to a data breach at a law firm that advised Hiscox, some of its commercial policyholders and other insurers, which it originally reported in April 2018.
The insurer said: "One of the cases the law firm handled for Hiscox and other insurers related to subrogation litigation arising from the events of 9/11, and we believe that information relating to this was stolen during that breach."
But Hiscox stressed that the law firm's systems were not connected to Hiscox's IT infrastructure and noted that its own systems were "unaffected" by the incident. It added: "Once Hiscox was made aware of the law firm's data breach, it took action and informed policyholders as required. We will continue to work with law enforcement in both the U.K. and U.S. on this matter."
A Lloyd's spokesperson said in a statement that there was "no evidence" that Lloyd's networks and systems had been compromised by the hacker group. Lloyd's "remains vigilant" and has "a number of protections in place to ensure the security and safety of the data and information it holds," according to the statement.
"Lloyd's will continue to monitor the situation closely, including working with managing agents targeted by the hacker group," the spokesperson added.
A spokesman for Silverstein Properties said in a statement that to date, it has found "no evidence" to support a data breach at the company. It said it is conducting an internal investigation into claims of breaches at firms involved in 9/11-related litigation, but that it "will not be distracted by 9/11 conspiracy theorists."
It is unclear how the release of the information would harm the companies involved, but the hacking group warned them that each time a new layer of information is released, "a new wave of liability will fall upon you."