A few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the hacking group known as The Dark Overlord tweeted a link to a set of encrypted files: “We’ll be providing many answers about 9/11 conspiracies through our 18,000 secret document leak.”
This is just the latest in a string of high profile hacks by The Dark Overlord, who have popped celebrity plastic surgeons, schools, family businesses and Netlfix-linked studios. Their motivation is simply: they want money, and they’re not afraid to extort people for it. (Update: originally this post misspelled string as “strong”. In an indication of how closely The Dark Overlord follows its own media coverage, the group contacted Motherboard to flag the typo.)
In this week’s episode, CYBER talks to Motherboard Senior Staff Writer Joseph Cox, who has been in contact with The Dark Overlord since 2016. Cox has seen the group evolve from its early days of extorting US medical centres, right up to its current campaign around the 9/11 documents, and how The Dark Overlord has adapted its strategy, and brazenness, over time.
The Dark Overlord has shown it has a relatively sophisticated understanding of the media, at least compared to other hackers, by providing journalists documents and issuing press releases. The idea here, as has been a constant across the group’s activities, is to generate media coverage to apply pressure to the group’s extortion victims. The hackers and their associates also have a whimsical, bizarre side, sending targets audio recordings of ransom demands in a rap track, which we play on the episode.
“They really don’t give a fuck, and they really are trying to fuck with the victim every way they can,” Cox said.