High Court Comes to Aid of Firm Targeted by Digital Blackmailers


No matter how many firewalls or other security measures they may have in place, every business is at risk from determined hackers intent on blackmail. However, as one case showed, the law can move fast to help victims minimise the damage.

The case concerned a leading firm of accountants, tax and business advisers, with numerous offices around the UK, whose IT systems had been hacked by persons unknown. The hackers had succeeded in stealing a mass of confidential and commercially sensitive information relating to the firm’s staff, clients and business.

The hack became apparent when a senior employee received an anonymous email threatening to release the information onto the dark web, or to the world at large, unless a ransom were paid in bitcoin. The firm swiftly launched proceedings and, within days, the matter came before the High Court.

Following an urgent hearing held in private, the Court issued an injunction against the hackers that forbade them from publishing or otherwise communicating the firm’s confidential information. They were further required to deliver up or destroy any such information that had come into their hands. Breach of the order would be a contempt of court, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

In making the order, the Court was satisfied that the firm was the victim of attempted blackmail and that the hackers had come into possession of the relevant information by criminal and unlawful means. Given the nefarious nature of their activities, their freedom of expression rights were not engaged. Permission was granted to serve the order on the hackers via a website through which they had communicated with the firm or via the email address used to make the ransom demand.

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