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British Man Accused of Hacking US Health Care Companies

Example of Locky ransomware (Christiaan Colen via Flicker Creative Commons 2.0)
Example of Locky ransomware (Christiaan Colen via Flicker Creative Commons 2.0)

A British man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to U.S. charges alleging that he and co-conspirators in an international hacking group called The Dark Overlord stole data from health care and accounting companies in Missouri, Illinois and Georgia and threatened to release the information unless they paid ransom.

Nathan Francis Wyatt, 38, was charged in federal court in St. Louis with conspiracy, two counts of aggravated identity theft and three counts of threatening to damage a protected computer, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday. His court appearance came after he lost an 11-month fight to avoid being extradited from Britain to the U.S.

The indictment does not name the companies that were allegedly attacked but said they include a health care provider in Farmington, Missouri; a medical records company in Swansea, Illinois; an accounting business in St. Louis; a health care provider in Athens, Georgia; and a health care provider with several locations in Missouri.

The indictment also does not name the co-conspirators or provide any details on them.

Wyatt’s attorney, federal public defender Kayla Williams, did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

The conspiracy charge alleges that Wyatt and his co-conspirators remotely accessed the companies’ computers to obtain personal and sensitive information, then sought to sell the records on criminal forums and marketplaces. Prosecutors said the group used email and telephones to threaten the companies unless they paid ransom in bitcoin or wire transfers.

The crimes occurred between June 10 and July 26, 2016.

The indictment says the defendants sent threatening text messages to the daughter of one of the owners of the Farmington company, at one point asking, “Did your daddy tell you he refused to pay us when we stole his company files?” and threatening to release thousands of patient files, including hers.

The hackers also threatened to call the public accountants’ clients “one by one” unless the company paid, the indictment alleges.

They also are accused of stealing money from the PayPal account of another health care provider, demanding $75,000 in bitcoin from a third health care company, and extorting money from another health care company.

Prosecutors have asked that Wyatt be kept in jail until trial. He has a fiance and three children in England, but no ties to St. Louis or the United States, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Dark Overlord claimed credit in April 2017 for the release of stolen episodes of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”