A British hacker extradited to Missouri to face federal charges for conspiracy and extortion went to gross lengths to terrify the victims of a ransom scheme, including harassing the teen daughter a St. Louis-based company owner who refused to pay, federal prosecutors found.
According to the government's sentencing memo filed last week, Nathan Wyatt, a member of a hacking group called "The Dark Overlord," played a key role in managing the anonymous accounts that infiltrated the networks of several U.S. companies between 2016 and 2017, including health care providers in Missouri, Illinois and Georgia.
The ransom demands ranged from $75,000 to $300,000 in bitcoins, and while the group collectively "preyed on the sensitivity of personal medical and financial records," investigators contended that Wyatt's actions allowed the group to remain hidden while they attacked U.S. targets.
"Perhaps most disturbingly," the memo reported, "members of the conspiracy sent ominous text messages to the daughter of one of the victims."
Although the public legal filings in the case do not name the companies targeted by the hacker group, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office said the texts were sent to the daughter of a St. Louis victim.
The government's sentencing memo includes portions of the text messages themselves, including one that began with boasting how the group had stolen patient information, "including yours."
The text to the teen continued, as quoted in the memo:
weve all had a look and we all think your hot. soon some really evil men will be looking at you..possibly thru your window. your father is also looking at multiple felonies..so say good bye to the house.. all bcs daddy wouldnt pay a much smaller sum to make all this go away.
The text, which had been sent through a phone registered by Wyatt, concluded with an obscene reference to incest.
In a later text sent to the company's office, the threats became more overt: "We will get physical and we will get violent."
However, despite the various attempts, none of the ransom targets buckled to the pressure. In turn, prosecutors said the hacker group sold the stolen data "on online criminal forums" where that information was later bought and exploited, "creating a second wave of victims."
As for Wyatt, prosecutors alleged that he had successfully concealed the identities of his coconspirators, "allowing them to act with impunity" while avoiding capture by the law. Wyatt's direct conduct in the scheme — which included recording and uploading to YouTube a cringingly bad extortion-themed rap song
— showed how the group "relished the mayhem they caused," prosecutors wrote.
On Monday, Wyatt, 39, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy and was sentenced to five years in prison. In Britain, he'd served more than a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2017 to multiple charges of identity theft, extortion and credit card fraud. He'd also made news in 2016 when he was arrested (but not charged) by police in Britain investigating the hacking of the iCloud account belonging to the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
He was extradited
to St. Louis in 2019.
During the sentencing hearing, conducted over Zoom, Wyatt apologized and said his decisions were influenced by mental problems, Cyber Scoop reported.
"I’m out of that world," Wyatt added, reportedly through tears. "I don’t want to see another computer for the rest of my life.”
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]
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