More Trouble for Trump as Hackers Threaten to Expose His Criminal Case Files in Georgia If Not Paid

by Jessica
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A hacking group that took down the websites of Fulton County, Georgia, last week is now threatening to release sensitive documents from the state’s court system, including some related to the criminal case against former President Donald Trump, unless it receives a ransom payment by Thursday morning.

According to a report by Business insider on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, the group, known as LockBit, posted a message on its website on Saturday, in both English and Russian, saying that the stolen documents “contain a lot of interesting things and Donald Trump’s court cases that could affect the upcoming US election.”

The message also said that the group had set a deadline of Saturday, March 2, for the payment, but later moved it up to 8:49 a.m. ET on Thursday, February 29.

The amount of the ransom was not disclosed, but the group’s demands are often negotiated in private, according to Dan Schiappa, the chief product officer at the cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf.

LockBit is one of the most notorious ransomware groups in the world, having targeted over 2,000 victims and obtained over $120 million in ransom funds, according to the US Department of Justice. Its recent targets include Boeing, the UK’s National Health Service and Royal Mail, and the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

The group operates on a service model, in which it develops sophisticated ransomware hacking tools and leases them out to other hackers to deploy against targets, taking a cut of the ransom.

The group is led by a hacker using the pseudonym LockBitSupp, who is believed to be based in Russia.

LockBit’s website was taken down by a coordinated law-enforcement operation on February 20, involving the FBI, the UK’s National Crime Agency, and other agencies.

The same day, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging two Russian nationals with being involved in the group’s hacking operations.

However, LockBit managed to restore its website over the weekend and claimed to have backup copies of the documents taken from the Fulton County government’s website.

It also renewed its ransom demands and taunted the FBI for acting quickly to stop the leak of documents in Trump’s criminal case, which it said could affect the 2024 presidential election.

“Personally I will vote for Trump because the situation on the border with Mexico is some kind of nightmare, Biden should retire, he is a puppet,” the message said, adding that the group would hack more government websites in the future.

The message also characterized LockBit’s relationship with the FBI as a sort of romantic rivalry, saying that the group sees the FBI as “strong competitors” and that “we love you, FBI.”

It is not clear whether the group’s political statements are genuine or meant to provoke or distract the authorities. Oluwaseyi Alashe, a cybersecurity expert and the founder of the firm Secured2, said that it is always difficult to discern the meaning of messages like the one published by LockBit on Saturday.

“Whether the declaration of support for Trump is genuine, posturing aimed at taunting what they see as ‘strong competitors and the FBI,’ or even an attempt to grab headlines, we don’t know,” he said.

The Fulton County government confirmed that it was the victim of a ransomware attack on February 19, which affected its websites and online services.

The county said that it was working with law-enforcement agencies and cybersecurity experts to restore its systems and investigate the incident.

The county also said that it had no evidence that any personal or confidential information was compromised by the attack.

However, it advised its employees and residents to monitor their accounts and credit reports for any suspicious activity.

The criminal case against Trump in Georgia stems from a phone call he made to the state’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in January, in which he pressured him to “find” enough votes to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden.

The call was recorded and leaked to the media, prompting an investigation by the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Willis has said that she is looking into potential charges of election fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy against Trump and his allies. She has also requested documents and recordings from Raffensperger and other state officials as part of her probe.

It is not clear what documents related to Trump’s case LockBit claims to have stolen or how they obtained them.

Neither Willis nor Raffensperger have commented on the hacking group’s threat or the ransom demand.

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