Having hacked and stolen information from luxury jewellery, Graff, the notorious Russian-based ransomware hacker Conti apologised to several high-profile identities after having leaked their personal and sensitive information on the Dark Web last month.
In an unusual twist for a criminal gang, Conti released a statement on 4 November saying: “We found that our sample data was not properly reviewed before being uploaded to the blog” and it assured Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar families whose names appeared on the leak that any information pertaining to the royal family members “will be deleted without any exposure and review.”
The gang specifically mentioned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, in response to the Daily Mail UK report of the Graff data attack, which also included details of high-profile clients former US President Donald Trump, as well as celebrities Oprah Winfrey and David Beckham, among others.
It removed 69,000 documents posted online following the apology, which they claimed represented only 1 per cent of their total haul but assured that none of the stolen files was “sold on auctions or offered as samples, or revealed in any other capacity to any third party.”
Cybersecurity experts believe that the unexpected response from the crime syndicate could have been borne out of fear of possible repercussions from any of those customers on the list, among them are Middle East leaders.
Former British military intelligence officer Phillip Ingram told Daily Mail that Conti could be worried about upsetting the Saudi Crown Prince, who was suspected in the past of ordering cyberattacks against enemies and sanctioning the assassination of a Saudi dissident. Salman is also believed to be an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The orchestrated attack was aimed at extorting Graff for multi-million-dollar blackmail in exchange for the hacked files that included invoices, client lists, receipts, and credit details of the jeweller’s clientele.
Despite the removal of the controversial documents, the group threatened to publish – after a more “rigid” review – information from the Graff files “regarding the financial declarations made by the US-UK-EU Neo-liberal plutocracy,” which they believe are engaged in expensive purchases as their territories “are crumbling under the economic crisis, unemployment, and COVID.”
According to global technology consultancy firm Unit 42 of Palo Alto Networks, the FBI has connected the syndicate to more than 400 cyberattacks worldwide – three-quarters of which were carried out in the US – with blackmail demands of up to $US25 million.
In other crime news, Spanish authorities have arrested a Croatian national in Barcelona believed to be a member of the notorious crime gang, The Pink Panthers.
The suspect is wanted in Germany for a string of jewellery heists worth around 715,000 euros ($AU1.12 million). He was wanted for assault and battery, robbery with violence, and illegal possession of weapons.
The Pink Panthers is an international criminal network of jewellery robbers who carried out carefully planned heists publicly in broad daylight. The gang is believed to have been operating for nearly two decades when a five-person team stole the Millennium necklace in 2002.