Late July 2017, HBO confirmed that it had been hacked. At the time, they were not commenting on what might have been stolen. In an email to employees they are quoted as saying “… there has been a cyber incident directed at the company which has resulted in some stolen proprietary information, including some of our programming … “. Downplaying the incident, they assured staff they had teams working around the clock on the incident.
In 2015 they were hacked as well. A hacking group claiming to be “Dark Overlord” claimed responsibility for this hack and subsequently released screener versions of the first 4 episodes of season 5.
Hackers claim to have downloaded 1.5 Terabytes of information, including email messages and episodes of the popular “Game of Thrones”. The hacker, who calls himself “Mr Smith”, released the script outline to episode 4 of the current season, some episodes of “Ballers”, as well as information on other shows like “Room 104”.
In a video message to HBO, “Mr Smith” claims to be a white hat hacker and an IT professional who was just doing a penetration test, yet he and his “colleagues” demand a ransom. He is demanding “our 6 month salary in bitcoin” to prevent the release of more damaging data (considering they say it took them 6 months to penetrate HBO). This equates to approximately $6 million as they claim to rake in $12million to $15million a year from cyber operations.
As more bits and pieces get dropped by the hackers, HBO states:
”We are not in communication with the hacker and we’re not going to comment every time a new piece of information is released. It has been widely reported that there was a cyber incident at HBO. The hacker may continue to drop bits and pieces of stolen information in an attempt to generate media attention. That’s a game we’re not going to participate in. Obviously, no company wants their proprietary information stolen and released on the internet. Transparency with our employees, partners, and the creative talent that works with us has been our focus throughout this incident and will remain our focus as we move forward. This incident has not deterred us from ensuring HBO continues to do what we do best.”
As of this date, despite repeated hints, no actual “Game of Thrones” episodes have been released, and HBO is not giving into ransom demands. They have, however, offered a $250 000 “bug bounty” as a show of good faith for discovering flaws in the system.
According to The Guardian and CNBC, sources close to the situation have said this is merely a delay tactic.
It is beginning to look like the hacker(s) used the hype surrounding the series to try and drum up media interest and we begin to wonder how much they really have? Did they really get any “Game of Thrones” episodes? Is this more “smoke than fire”?
Only time will tell.