Hack­ers de­mand mil­lions in ran­som for stolen HBO data

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

A group of hack­ers posted a fresh cache of stolen HBO files on­line Mon­day, and de­manded a mul­timil­lion-dol­lar ran­som from the net­work to pre­vent the re­lease of en­tire tele­vi­sion se­ries and other sen­si­tive pro­pri­etary files. HBO, which had pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged the theft of “pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion,” said it’s con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate and is work­ing with po­lice and cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts. In a swag­ger­ing fiveminute video from “Mr. Smith” to HBO CEO Richard Ple­pler in­cluded in the dump, the hack­ers used white text scrolling on a black back­ground to de­liver an ultimatum.

In short: Pay up within three days or see the group, which claims to have stolen 1.5 ter­abytes of HBO shows and con­fi­den­tial cor­po­rate data, up­load en­tire se­ries and sen­si­tive pro­pri­etary files. Specif­i­cally, the hack­ers de­manded “our 6-month salary in bit­coin,” and claimed they earn $12 mil­lion to $15 mil­lion a year from black­mail­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions whose net­works they have pen­e­trated. They said they would only deal di­rectly with “Richard” and only send one “let­ter” de­tail­ing how to pay.

The dump it­self was just 3.4 gi­ga­bytes mostly tech­ni­cal data that ap­pears to pro­vide a to­pog­ra­phy of HBO’s net­work and to list net­work-ad­min­is­tra­tor pass­words. It in­cludes what ap­pear to be draft scripts from five “Game of Thrones” episodes, in­clud­ing one up­com­ing episode, and a month’s worth of email ap­par­ently from the ac­count of Les­lie Co­hen, HBO’s vice pres­i­dent for film pro­gram­ming. The net­work re­it­er­ated Mon­day that it doesn’t be­lieve that its email sys­tem as a whole has been com­pro­mised. The video text was writ­ten in of­ten flawed but flu­ent English pep­pered with mis­spellings and pop-culture ref­er­ences.

The hack­ers claimed it took them about 6 months to breach HBO’s net­work. Their big­gest threat ap­pears to be dump­ing videos of fu­ture shows on­line with their logo “HBO Is Fall­ing” su­per­im­posed. Many of the more than 50 in­ter­nal doc­u­ments in the dump were la­beled “con­fi­den­tial,” in­clud­ing a spread­sheet of le­gal claims against the net­work, job of­fer let­ters to sev­eral top ex­ec­u­tives, slides dis­cussing fu­ture tech­nol­ogy plans and a list of 37,977 emails called “Richard’s Con­tact list,” an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Ple­pler.

One screen­shot la­beled “Highly Con­fi­den­tial” by the hack­ers listed fold­ers such as “Pen­guin Ran­dom House,” “Li­cens­ing & Re­tail,” “Le­gal,” “In­ter­na­tional” and “Bud­gets.” An­other doc­u­ment ap­pears to con­tain the con­fi­den­tial cast list for “Game of Thrones,” listing per­sonal cell­phone num­bers and email ad­dresses for ac­tors such as Peter Din­klage, Lena Headey and Emilia Clark. So far, how­ever, the HBO leaks have been lim­ited, fall­ing well short of the chaos in­flicted on Sony in 2014.

In that at­tack, hack­ers pos­si­bly associated with North Korea un­earthed thou­sands of em­bar­rass­ing emails and re­leased per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing salaries and so­cial se­cu­rity num­bers, of nearly 50,000 cur­rent and for­mer Sony em­ploy­ees. The video let­ter up­loaded Mon­day claimed the hack­ers spend a half mil­lion dol­lars a year to pur­chase “zero-day” ex­ploits that let them break into net­works through holes not yet know to Mi­crosoft and other soft­ware com­pa­nies. It claims HBO is the hack­ers’ 17th target and that only three of their past tar­gets re­fused to pay.—AP

NEW YORK: This im­age re­leased by HBO shows Niko­laj Coster-Wal­dau as Jaime Lan­nis­ter in an episode of ‘Game of Thrones.’—AP

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