Hackers Steal Data from UK Jeweller, Demand Ransom, Then Apologize

Published: 09 November 2021

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diamonds (Source: Pixabay, Free)

By David Klein

When thieves plundered one of the U.K.’s swankiest jewellers last month, they didn’t take any diamonds or other precious gems. They stole data.


But then, they unexpectedly apologized to some of the shop’s clients. 

The Russian-based cyber gang, Conti, stole the data of some 11,000 customers of the high society jewelry shop Graff, including Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, David Beckham, and members of the Saudi, Emirati and Qatari royal families, according to media reports.

The group has already leaked nearly 70,000 documents and is demanding a multimillion dollar ransom in exchange for the rest.

The case is emblematic of the changing landscape of crime in the 21st century, and especially since the start of the pandemic as instances of cybercrime have exploded. 

Among the leaked files may be evidence of affairs and bribes, it is believed. 

“We are working with law enforcement while keeping affected clients informed of developments,” a Graff spokesman told OCCRP on Saturday. “At Graff, our clients are our priority. We take the protection of their privacy and data extremely seriously and continually revisit our security-enhancement measures.”

It appears that some of those clients may have gotten to Conti first however. 

The group made an unexpected apology earlier last week to the several Arab royal families whose data was included in the leak. 

“Our Team apologizes to His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman and any other members of the Royal Families whose names were mentioned in the publication for any inconvenience,” they said in a statement on their website, according to VICE

“Conti guarantees that any information pertaining to members of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar families will be deleted without any exposure and review,” the group said. 

What exactly prompted the apology from Conti to the Arab royals is unclear, but inclusion of the name of Saudi leader Prince Mohammed Bin Salman may offer some clues. 

Though he had been praised as more moderate than his predecessors, Bin Salman gained notoriety for ordering the brutal murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Kashoggi in 2018. Kashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and it is believed dismembered with a bone saw so that his body parts could be clandestinely removed. 

He’s not the only one Conti has reason to fear. 

“Bluntly, UAE sends assassination teams to deal with people they don’t like,” Allan Liska,  a researcher at cybersecurity firm Recorded Future who tracks ransomware, told VICE. ”My guess is that they had a conversation with someone in the Kremlin who told that this was a bad idea and so they removed the data.”