Hack­ers post files from HBO, de­mand ran­som

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - TRAVIS M. AN­DREWS

A hacker or hack­ers go­ing by the name “Mr. Smith” dumped a trove of stolen HBO files on­line Mon­day, hint­ing at the ex­tent of the chan­nel’s se­cu­rity breach last week.

The files in­clude five Game of Thrones scripts and a month’s worth of emails from Les­lie Co­hen, the chan­nel’s vice pres­i­dent for film pro­gram­ming. This is the sec­ond data dump from the re­cent hack, ac­cord­ing to The Associated Press.

The hack­ers also de­manded a ran­som from HBO, threat­en­ing to re­lease more of re­main­ing files they claim to have ob­tained.

The Game of Thrones scripts, in­clud­ing one for a com­ing episode, were wa­ter­marked with the words “HBO is Fall­ing,” which is the hack­ers’ motto, ac­cord­ing to Wired. Also in­cluded in the data dump were in­ter­nal doc­u­ments such as fi­nan­cial balance sheets, a re­port of le­gal claims against the chan­nel and job of­fer let­ters for sev­eral of its top ex­ec­u­tives, AP re­ported.

The hack­ers sent HBO’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Off icer Richard Ple­pler a video let­ter show­ing a scroll un­furl­ing while the Game of Thrones score plays, Wired re­ported. The scroll read, in part, “We suc­cess­fully breached into your huge net­work… . HBO was one of our dif­fi­cult tar­gets to deal with but we suc­ceeded (it took about 6 months),” ac­cord­ing to The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter.

The hack­ers de­manded “our 6 month salary in bit­coin,” which ap­peared to be at least $6 mil­lion, The New York Times re­ported.

HBO, in a state­ment to the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, dou­bled down on its claim that “the re­view to date has not given us a rea­son to be­lieve that our e-mail sys­tem as a whole has been com­pro­mised.” But the chan­nel did say it “be­lieved that fur­ther leaks might emerge from this cy­ber in­ci­dent when we con­firmed it last week.”

HBO pub­licly dis­closed the hack on July 31 af­ter a leak that in­cluded “the unau­tho­rized re­lease of sev­eral up­com­ing TV episodes from the se­ries Ballers, In­se­cure and Room 104, as well as a script for an up­com­ing episode of Game of Thrones,” The Washington Post’s Brian Fung and Craig Tim­berg re­ported.

The hack­ers claimed to have stolen 1.5 ter­abytes of data, though the first re­lease only in­cluded about 300 me­gabytes, ac­cord­ing to The Post. Mon­day’s data dump in­cluded 500 me­gabytes, Wired re­ported.

Se­cu­rity ex­perts said fig­ur­ing out ex­actly how much data was stolen could take weeks.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” said He­man­shu Nigam, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor and founder of In­ter­net se­cu­rity com­pany SSP Blue.

Deal­ing with hack­ers has be­come an in­creas­ingly com­mon chal­lenge for stu­dios and net­works in the In­ter­net age. As the ac­tual ma­te­ri­als used in the pro­duc­tion of film and tele­vi­sion, such as scripts and video files, be­come in­creas­ingly dig­i­tized, they’re nat­u­rally more vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers.

Many hack­ers have taken ad­van­tage of this, steal­ing files from ma­jor en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies such as Net­flix and Sony Pic­tures.

“No com­pany is re­ally off lim­its to­day,” Jim McGregor, prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst at Tirias Re­search, told Tech NewsWorld. “But the big­ger and more prom­i­nent you are, the big­ger tar­get you be­come for a wider va­ri­ety of hack­ers.”

In many cases, fi­nan­cial gain ap­pears to be a driv­ing fac­tor be­hind the hacks.

HBO isn’t the first chan­nel to be faced with the de­ci­sion to pay up or have com­ing episodes of its pop­u­lar shows leaked. In De­cem­ber, a hack­ing group known as the Dark Over­lord stole sev­eral files from Lar­son Stu­dios, in­clud­ing the en­tire fifth sea­son of Net­flix’s pop­u­lar orig­i­nal show Or­ange is the New Black.

“Once I was able to look at our server, my hands started shak­ing, and I al­most threw up,” the stu­dio’s di­rec­tor of dig­i­tal sys­tems Chris Un­thank told Va­ri­ety.

The hack­ers de­manded 50 bit­coin, or about $50,000, from Lar­son Stu­dios or else it would re­lease the episodes. The stu­dio paid up. Rather than up­hold­ing its end of the deal, though, the Dark Over­lord then pres­sured Net­flix to pay an ad­di­tional ran­som.

Net­flix re­fused. In re­sponse, the Dark Over­lord leaked the stolen episodes on­line in late April, weeks be­fore their sched­uled re­lease on June 9, the Times re­ported.

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