HBO chief says emails weren’t stolen in hack

CEO’s note to staffers was meant to calm ner­vous em­ploy­ees af­ter scripts and episodes were leaked.

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By Meg James meg.james@la­times.com Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

HBO is still try­ing to fig­ure out the ex­tent of the cy­ber­at­tack on its com­puter sys­tems — but so far there is no ev­i­dence that em­ploy­ees’ emails were stolen, the com­pany’s top ex­ec­u­tive told staff.

“At this time, we do not be­lieve that our email sys­tem as a whole has been com­pro­mised, but the foren­sic re­view is on­go­ing,” HBO Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Richard Ple­pler told staff mem­bers in an email Wed­nes­day.

The note was an ef­fort to calm the rat­tled nerves of em­ploy­ees and pro­vide a brief up­date on the re­view of the hack.

Emails pur­loined dur­ing the mas­sive hack of Sony Pic­tures En­ter­tain­ment in 2014 be­came the source of much grief for top ex­ec­u­tives at the Cul­ver City stu­dio. In ad­di­tion to the ex­po­sure of em­ployee con­tracts, phone num­bers and per­sonal bank in­for­ma­tion, count­less em­bar­rass­ing ex­changes be­tween em­ploy­ees as well as for­mer film boss Amy Pas­cal and pro­duc­ers were made pub­lic.

The con­tents of the emails weak­ened Pas­cal’s stand­ing, and she was even­tu­ally forced out of the stu­dio. The U.S. gov­ern­ment blamed North Korea for that par­tic­u­lar break-in.

HBO con­firmed Mon­day that it ex­pe­ri­enced a breach that com­pro­mised some of its pro­gram­ming and is work­ing with law en­force­ment. The net­work has not said who might have been be­hind this par­tic­u­lar hack, which be­came pub­lic last week­end.

The hack­ers sent email mes­sages to news or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing The Times, to an­nounce their break-in and the theft of a script for an up­com­ing episode of HBO’s block­buster fan­tasy drama, “Game of Thrones.”

HBO has con­firmed that pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing some of its pro­gram­ming, was stolen dur­ing the cy­ber­at­tack. Some re­ports have sug­gested that episodes of HBO’s “Ballers” and “Room 104” also were taken.

Hol­ly­wood stu­dios in­creas­ingly are ripe tar­gets for hack­ers try­ing to get ac­cess to un­re­leased TV episodes and films. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” episodes have long been among the most cov­eted trea­sures for hack­ers.

“We are also in the process of en­gag­ing an out­side firm to work with our em­ploy­ees to pro­vide credit mon­i­tor­ing and we will be fol­low­ing up with those de­tails,” Ple­pler told em­ploy­ees Wed­nes­day.

“Mean­time,” he said, “con­tinue to do the ex­cel­lent work which de­fines this com­pany across all de­part­ments and know that the ap­pro­pri­ate teams are work­ing round the clock to man­age our way through this dif­fi­cult pe­riod.”

Stephen Lam Getty Images

HBO Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Richard Ple­pler, shown in 2015, told em­ploy­ees in an email Wed­nes­day, “At this time, we do not be­lieve that our email sys­tem as a whole has been com­pro­mised, but the foren­sic re­view is on­go­ing.”

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