Hackers gang removes "Antwerp" from its website

The website of the hackers’ gang Play no longer lists The City of Antwerp as one of the organisations that it has hacked. What the significance of this is remains unclear. However, the cyber security expert Geert Baudewijns says that it may be that either negotiations between the hackers and the City of Antwerp are ongoing or that there is already an agreement and therefore a ransom payment may have been made.

The City of Antwerp fell victim to a major cyber-attack a week and a half ago, as a result of which many of the city’s public services are now at a standstill. Making an appointment at the City Hall does not always go smoothly, and museums, education and libraries are also affected by the hacking.

Not long after the City of Antwerp’s websites were hacked the Play hacker collective claimed responsibilty for the hacking on its website on the so-called “dark web”.  The collective gave the City authorities until Monday 19 December to pay a ransom demand.

If not, the gang threatens to dump all personal data on the internet, amounting to more than 500 gigabytes of data about the city and its inhabitants.

Ransom or negotiation?

The fact that the city is no longer mentioned on the Play website can only mean two things cyber-security expert Geert Baudewijns of Secutec told VRT News "Either the negotiations are in full swing. Or the city has paid. I am not involved in the negotiations, but I speak from my experience as a negotiator."

"Sometimes the ransom that a company must pay can be as much as 10 percent of its turnover. "But for municipal or city authorities it can be completely different. So I can't comment on that."

VRT NWS journalist Tim Verheyden says that Play is well-known in the world of hacking "They have been responsible for major cyber-attacks in the United States, Canada, Bulgaria, Switzerland and now also for the attack on the City of Antwerp." The City of Antwerp has not yet responded about why it no longer appears on Play’s website.

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