In brief

  • Nathan Wyatt, a member of a well-known hacking group, plead guilty to multiple charges in the US this week.
  • He extracted sensitive information and threatened victims with releasing the information unless they paid Bitcoin.
  • Wyatt was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $1.5 million.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) sentenced UK national Nathan Wyatt to five years in prison this week after he plead guilty to being a member of the notorious “The Dark Overlord” hacker outfit, according to court documents.

The Dark Overlord stole medical records, client files, and personal information from the US companies before demanding over $75,000 and $300,000 worth of Bitcoin to return that information, as per the filing. The firm allegedly hacked video-sharing giant Netflix in 2017, among other high-profile victim companies and hospitals over the years.

Wyatt’s role, noted the document, was to contact victims—usually the executives at victim companies—via phone and email and demand a Bitcoin ransom after their data was compromised.

In some cases, he even threatened family members with sensitive information belonging to the victims. One such mail to a victim’s daughter read, “Maybe your [sic] just a dumb rich girl who doesn't [sic] understand the dangers here. Im gonna try Chels. she may have an iq. stay hot.”

But Wyatt’s criminal career did not last long. He was identified as being part of The Dark Overlord after using phone numbers registered in his name to contact some of the victims. This led to his arrest in the UK in 2017, after which he was extradited to the US to face charges in 2019.

On Monday, Wyatt pleaded guilty in a US federal court on six counts, ranging from conspiring to commit aggravated identity theft to computer fraud. He was also ordered to pay around $1.5m in restitution.

Cybercrime and ransomware involving cryptocurrencies are increasingly becoming commonplace. As per a report, ransomware has cost victims over $7.5 billion in 2019 alone, with the numbers expected to increase this year as more people turn to online work and have their systems exposed to the web.