A group of hackers that stole data from HBO is threatening to release entire TV series if the network doesn’t pay them millions of dollars.
Stolen files allegedly include entire episodes of the massively popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” (GOT) – which was the most pirated show of 2016.
The group, which calls itself “Mr. Smith,” claims to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of information from HBO, including confidential corporate data and other proprietary files.
In a 5-minute video letter to HBO CEO Richard Plepler, Mr. Smith claims it earns between $12 and $15 million per year from blackmailing organizations like HBO. And they want six month’s worth of that “salary” now from HBO.
“Our demand is clear and non-negotiable…HBO spends 12 million for market research and 5 million for GOT 7 advertisements. So consider us another budget for your advertisements!” reads the video letter.
Along with the letter, Mr. Smith released 3.4 gigabytes of stolen data on Monday. This cache allegedly includes:
• Network-administrator passwords
• Draft scripts from GOT episodes
• Emails from high-ranking HBO employees
• A confidential list of legal claims against HBO
• A confidential GOT cast list including phone numbers and email addresses for actors
Many of the leaked documents show a watermark with Mr. Smith’s motto “HBO is falling.”
The hackers say it took them six months to breach HBO’s network and that they typically spend $500,000 each year to buy “zero-day” exploits that enable them to break into networks through holes still unknown to software companies like Microsoft.
Mr. Smith claims that HBO is its 17th target and that only 3 of their past victims have refused to pay up.
HBO has acknowledged the theft of “proprietary information,” but insists that its email system as a whole has not been compromised.
Hacks of this magnitude are becoming more common, with the most notable example being the 2014 hack of Sony.
Earlier this year, hackers released an entire season of the Netflix hit series “Orange is the New Black” after the company failed to meet its ransom demands.
Author’s Note: Mr. Smith and other hacking groups represent a type of organized crime as dangerous as the mafia. The magnitude of these ransoms and the systematic targeting of big companies like Netflix and HBO represent a new level of seriousness. Previous breaches in privacy never evoked a serious response because the targeted institutions didn’t care – it was only people’s privacy. But if hackers continue to target television networks, we can expect the industry to go to war.
Editor’s note: The author is correct, corporations don’t give a rats ass about your privacy, but they do care about their profit margin. Look for a new breed of anti-hacker soldier. Highly paid and ruthless.