What is ‘The Dark Overlord’ — and does its ’9/11 Papers’ reveal a real conspiracy?

The hacker group calling itself “The Dark Overlord” says it has proof of a 9/11 conspiracy, and that the sensitive document dump has already begun.

The hacker syndicate announced on New Year’s Eve that it had stolen 18,000 sensitive insurance documents from businesses with cases in court surrounding the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, according to Newsweek.

“Edward Snowden leaks were quite impressive and caught the world’s attention due to the highly sensitive nature of the materials and the global impact. What we’re about to announce and leak will top Edward Snowden’s finest work, both in volume and in impact,” the announcement, initially posted to a coding text storage forum called Pastebin, read, before it was removed, according to Newsweek. “Pay the f--- up, or we’re going to bury you with this. We’re not motivated by political thoughts. We’re not hacktivists. We’re motivated only by our pursuit of internet money.”

The group’s latest Twitter account was suspended after the threat to release the documents was posted to the social media site.

That pursuit of money is one of The Dark Overlord’s calling cards. The group has been previously tied to hacks of a Hollywood production studio, according to Forbes, and of a London plastic surgeon’s office that caters to celebrity clientele, according to Sky News.

The group said on a recent forum that its future releases will include information that supports claims of UFO sightings, Newsweek reported.

“The group has a history of hacking organisations to obtain sensitive information before demanding money in exchange for not leaking it into the public domain,” according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre. “They leak snippets of data to the media to encourage them to report on their activity. This is aimed at “proving” that a breach has taken place, and increases the pressure on the victim to pay the ransom. ‘The Dark Overlord’ has been responsible for indiscriminately targeting health institutions, schools and media production companies over the last year.”

This latest purported hack and document dump is another extortion attempt, aimed at the businesses involved in the 9/11-related litigation. A series of posts on a social network called Steemit, attributed to a user called “thedarkoverlord,” lists the step-by-step for accessing the 650 pages of documents it says have already been released.

They call their release the “9/11 Papers.”

The Dark Overlord says it hit several high-profile legal firms and insurance companies in its latest attack, according to Motherboard, including Hiscox Syndicates Ltd., Lloyds of London and Silverstein Properties. The Dark Overlord’s strategy for “proving” the hack is real is to demand money from the extortion victims, while also publicly releasing bits and pieces at a time to increase the pressure on the victim companies to deal with the hackers.

A Hiscox Group spokesperson said in a statement that The Dark Overlord hackers breached the computer system of a law firm the company does business with, and had probably stolen files related to litigation surrounding the 9/11 attacks, the website reported.

“The law firm’s systems are not connected to Hiscox’s IT infrastructure and Hiscox’s own systems were unaffected by this incident. One of the cases the law firm handled for Hiscox and other insurers related to litigation arising from the events of 9/11, and we believe that information relating to this was stolen during that breach,” the statement reads.

The “9/11 Papers” leak is ongoing, happening in what The Dark Overlord calls “layers,” according to the string of posts on Steemit. When certain milestone amounts of bitcoin have been donated securely through the group’s online bitcoin wallet, new alleged documents are released, with the last of the alleged 18,000 documents purported to be the most damaging.

McClatchy has not accessed the leaked documents and cannot independently verify that the Steemit user “thedarkoverlord” is, in fact, a member of the hacker collective.

They really don’t give a f---,” cybersecurity reporter Joseph Cox said of The Dark Overlord on a recent cybersecurity podcast. “And they really are trying to f--- with the victim every way they can.”

Matt is an award-winning real time reporter and a University of Texas at Austin graduate who’s been based at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 2011. His regional focus is Texas, and that makes sense. He’s only lived there his whole life.