The cyber-extortion spree of The Dark Overlord gang has accelerated, leaving a major television studio and a trail of U.S. medical and dental clinics damaged for their refusal to meet ransom demands.
“We’ll admit that business is quite nice, and it’s only improving,” a spokesperson for the group told McClatchy in an encrypted chat.
The cybercrime spree has gone largely unreported but has affected at least two dozen health clinics, Hollywood studios and industrial manufacturers in the past year.
On June 5, the group released eight unaired episodes of ABC’s “Steve Harvey’s FUNDERDOME” show and subsequently spilled 12,000 patient records from two Southern California medical and dental clinics. A Virginia clinic is now in its sights.
One of the clinics that suffered a breach this month was the La Quinta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry in La Quinta, not far from Palm Springs, in southern California.
“The FBI’s already on it,” Dr. Armen Karimyan said in a brief telephone interview, adding that he couldn’t confirm the gang’s claim that it had spilled 6,300 patient records onto a public site on the internet.
In a lengthy chat with McClatchy, conducted through an encrypted channel, the group’s spokesperson displayed the swagger that has been a hallmark of the gang’s public interactions, and sought to portray the group as having legitimate business aspirations.
Asked about the number of victims of its extortion demands, the spokesperson wrote back: “Victims? You mean clients, right?”
The spokesperson brushed off questions about smaller businesses and clinics, including a nonprofit cancer center in Indiana, that have faced hardship because of its hacks.
“We’re here to earn vast amounts of internet money, not feel for our clients,” the person wrote, warning at another moment that anyone breached by the group should accede to ransom demands rather than face disclosure of confidential records.
“It’s easier to sign on as a client and pay up than it is to fight us. You will lose and fall with a great thud,” the person said.
The crime group released 10 unaired episodes of the fifth season of the Netflix hit show “Orange is the New Black” in late April, declaring that the Los Gatos, California, streaming media company had declined to pay a ransom.
On June 5, the crime gang posted a message on pastebin.com, a storage sharing website, saying that it was “time to play another round.”
“If you prefer your meat bloody, we’re serving it bloody as can be: We’re bringing another piece from the world of unaired mainstream media content: ABC’s ‘Steve Harvey’s Funderdome,’ ” the posting said.
ABC-TV declined comment. The show, a reality competition where entrepreneurs pitch ideas before an audience, premiered Sunday night as scheduled.
The gang’s spokesperson said making money is the prime motivation, just as it was in an earlier lawless era in the United States.
“Are you familiar with the famous American bank robber, Willie Sutton? In an interview, he was once asked, ‘Why do you rob banks?’ To which (he) replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is,’ ” the spokesperson said. “We’ll leave you to interpret what we’re motivated by.”
Asked earlier how the group would describe itself, the spokesperson said: “We’re a leading world-class cyber-terrorism organisation,” using British spelling conventions.
“This description was bestowed upon us by various United States LEAs (law enforcement agencies). We consider ourselves an organised business with a rapidly growing client base,” the person wrote.
Meanwhile, the gang put another dental clinic on notice, this one in Virginia, declaring that it’s new goal was to strike a target every single day.
“A Business A Day: We’re having to pull teeth with Coliseum Pediatric Dentistry of 2113 Hartford Rd c, Hampton, VA 23666. What should we do?” the group said in a tweet that included a typo in the address.
The dental clinic declined comment.