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Exclusive: Watergategate? Ransomware gang targets famous Watergate Hotel

The personal data of Watergate employees and several foreign diplomats has been published online by the Qilin ransomware group.

user icon David Hollingworth
Wed, 01 May 2024
Exclusive: Watergategate? Ransomware gang targets famous Watergate Hotel
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The Qilin ransomware gang claims to have successfully hacked the Watergate Hotel, made famous – or infamous – over the 1972 presidential scandal named after the hotel itself.

According to Qilin, the hack took place around 18 April, and while the gang has not shared how much data it has, some proof-of-hack data has been published.

The gang has also said the hotel has until 5 May to pay up, or the stolen data will be published in full.


“All data will be open and available for downloading in 2 days!!!(03.05.24),” a Qilin spokesperson said on the gang’s leak site.

The sample data that Qilin has posted, however, is alarming. It includes several passport scans, at least one of which belongs to a former Watergate Hotel employee, while other passports include one from a German national and another belonging to an individual from the People’s Republic of China.

The leaked data also includes scans of several personal tax exemption cards issued by the US Department of State to members of foreign embassies. Three cards belong to individuals from the embassy of the Republic Of Turkey, including the embassy’s military attache as of 2020.

Another card – and a State Department-issued driver’s license – belongs to a member of the Korean mission.

According to the State Department, tax exemption cards are given to “eligible foreign missions, accredited members and dependents on the basis of international law and reciprocity. These cards authorise exemption from sales tax, occupancy tax, and similarly imposed taxes at the point of sale.”

Other documents posted by the hacking group include employee non-disclosure agreements, confidential client invoices, legal documents, emails, and employee salary and 401(k) documents. The data appears to be relatively recent, with documents variously dated between 2019 and 2023, while several of the passports are still valid.

The Watergate Hotel was made famous in 1972 after then-president Richard Nixon ordered five men to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel and Office Building in the same complex, intending to install listening devices and steal campaign documents.

The men were arrested at the scene, leading to the Watergate scandal and, ultimately, the end of Nixon’s presidency.

Cyber Daily has reached out to the Watergate Hotel and the impacted embassies for comment.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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