HBO data stolen, leaked on­line

In lat­est Hol­ly­wood breach, hack­ers say they ac­cessed a script for ‘Game of Thrones.’

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Ryan Faugh­n­der

The cy­ber­at­tack against HBO and its big­gest se­ries “Game of Thrones” is the lat­est re­minder that Hol­ly­wood re­mains a vul­ner­a­ble tar­get for on­line pil­lagers.

For cy­ber­crim­i­nals seek­ing at­ten­tion, there are few greater prizes than the hottest show on tele­vi­sion or the big­gest movie in the­aters.

The hack­ers who took re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­tack­ing HBO say they have stolen and leaked a trove of HBO data onto the Web, in­clud­ing a script for an up­com­ing episode of “Game of Thrones,” as well as video of new episodes of shows such as “Ballers,” “In­se­cure” and “Room 104.” And, they say, there’s more to come.

HBO con­firmed in a state­ment Mon­day that it ex­pe­ri­enced a breach that com­pro­mised some of its pro­gram­ming and im­me­di­ately be­gan to in­ves­ti­gate the in­ci­dent, work­ing with law en­force­ment and in­de­pen­dent cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts.

“The prob­lem be­fore us is un­for­tu­nately all too fa­mil­iar in the world we now find our­selves a part of,” HBO Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Richard Ple­pler said in a memo to em­ploy­ees. “I can as­sure you that se­nior lead­er­ship and our ex­tra­or­di­nary tech­nol­ogy team, along with out­side ex­perts, are work­ing round the clock to pro­tect our col­lec­tive in­ter­ests. The ef­forts across mul­ti­ple de­part­ments have been noth­ing short of her­culean.”

HBO de­clined to com­ment fur­ther on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

It’s un­clear how hack­ers ac­cessed HBO’s data, how much they stole or if there was a ran­som (cy­ber­crim­i­nals are no­to­ri­ous for ex­ag­ger­at­ing claims).

“Hi to all mankind,” the hack­ers said in emails to me­dia out­lets, in­clud­ing the Los An­ge­les Times. “The great­est leak of cy­ber space era is hap­pen­ing. What’s its name? Oh I for­get to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones !!!!!! You are lucky to

be the first pi­o­neers to wit­ness and down­load the leak.”

HBO, which is owned by me­dia gi­ant Time Warner Inc., is just the most re­cent en­ter­tain­ment com­pany to en­dure threats from cy­ber­crim­i­nals. In May, hack­ers claimed to have stolen Walt Dis­ney Co.’s “Pi­rates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” and de­manded ran­som, though that hack turned out to be a hoax, Dis­ney CEO Robert Iger said.

In another ma­jor re­cent in­ci­dent, Net­flix was at­tacked by a hacker known as the Dark Over­lord, who up­loaded episodes from the new sea­son of “Or­ange Is the New Black” af­ter the com­pany re­fused to pay the ran­som.

The most dev­as­tat­ing ex­am­ple of a Hol­ly­wood cy­ber­breach re­mains the 2014 at­tack on Sony Pic­tures En­ter­tain­ment that was blamed on North Korea. That at­tack came as Sony was about to re­lease the com­edy “The In­ter­view,” about a fic­tional at­tempt to as­sas­si­nate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It be­gan by crip­pling Sony’s com­puter sys­tems and up­load­ing yet-to-be re­leased movies on­line; it went on to ex­pose em­bar­rass­ing emails be­tween ex­ec­u­tives and movie pro­duc­ers.

Hol­ly­wood has long been a vic­tim of il­le­gal hack­ing and piracy, and “Game of Thrones” is al­ready one of the most pop­u­lar tar­gets. Ac­cord­ing to web­site Tor­ren­tFreak, cit­ing data from piracy mon­i­tor­ing firm MUSO, the Sea­son 7 pre­miere of “Game of Thrones” was pi­rated 90 mil­lion times, mostly from unau­tho­rized stream­ing por­tals.

In 2015, the first four episodes of “Game of Thrones” Sea­son 5 were leaked to file-shar­ing sites a day be­fore the first one aired.

Be­cause TV dra­mas such as “Game of Thrones” are made for the pub­lic and an­a­lyzed and dis­cussed weekly on­line, they are highly de­sir­able for cy­ber­crim­i­nals.

The more suc­cess­ful a me­dia prod­uct, the more vul­ner­a­ble it is, said Michael Sul­meyer, cy­ber­se­cu­rity project di­rec­tor at the Belfer Cen­ter for Sci­ence and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs at Har­vard Univer­sity.

“HBO has done bril­liantly mar­ket­ing ‘Game of Thrones’ and it makes them an at­trac­tive tar­get for hack­ers,” he said.

The se­ries, based on the nov­els by Ge­orge R.R. Martin, has be­come a flag­ship pro­gram for the network that first pre­miered the show in 2011. The pre­miere of the cur­rent sea­son drew 16.1 mil­lion view­ers in its first day, a record for the network.

En­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies have an es­pe­cially hard time se­cur­ing data be­cause so many com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing special ef­fects spe­cial­ists and mar­ket­ing firms, are in­volved in pro­duc­tion and post-pro­duc­tion.

“Their sys­tems are highly dis­persed,” said Clif­ford Neu­man, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Com­puter Sys­tems Se­cu­rity at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. “There is a lot of mov­ing data all across the sys­tem and it makes it more dif­fi­cult to se­cure.”

Yet, Neu­man said, the breadth of data that the hack­ers said they ac­cessed sug­gests that the vul­ner­a­bil­ity was more cen­tral to HBO.

“It seems the data that was dis­trib­uted is pretty much across the board,” Neu­man said.

He­len Sloan HBO

BE­CAUSE TV DRA­MAS such as “Game of Thrones” are made for the pub­lic and an­a­lyzed weekly on­line, they are highly de­sir­able for cy­ber­crim­i­nals.

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