Just recently, HBO joined the ranks of famous Hollywood entertainment companies to face major cybersecurity breach.
“Whoever spreads well, we will have an interview with him. HBO is falling.” -Hacking suspects
News of the hacking incident surfaced early August when some scripts of the hit series Game of Thrones, which is already in its seventh season, got leaked. The said scripts were of episode four that was supposed to air on August 6.
The company immediately issued an official statement confirming the hacking incident. A part of it read:
“HBO recently experienced a cyber incident, which resulted in the compromise of proprietary information. We immediately began investigating the incident and are working with law enforcement and outside cybersecurity firms. Data protection is a top priority at HBO, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect the data we hold.”#HBO is now being forced by #hackers to pay over 6 million USD in #bitcoin!!!Click To Tweet
According to news, the unknown hackers were able to steal 1.5 terabytes of data from the entertainment company. From the alleged hacked files, the culprits started leaking upcoming episodes of other HBO series, too, including Ballers and Room 104.
Hackers Demand Millions From HBO
On July 30th, reporters received an anonymous email from the hackers announcing the hack. It read:
“Hi to all mankind. 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. Enjoy it & spread the words. Whoever spreads well, we will have an interview with him. HBO is falling.”
At that time, no one really knew what the motive was behind the cyber crime. Now, a week after the unfortunate event made headlines, the hackers dealt another major blow to HBO when they released their third installment of stolen files.
The latest leak includes around half a gigabyte of records. According to reports, these new files have the scripts to the upcoming fifth episode of the Game of Thrones to be aired on August 13. All the script pages were said to be watermarked with the hacker’s motto, ‘HBO is falling.’
Apart from that, the files also contain a month’s worth of emails from the account of HBO’s Vice President of Film Programming, Leslie Cohen. There are also other sensitive documents such as legal claims against the company, job offer letters to top business executives, marketing strategy PDFs, and financial balance sheets to name a few.
The hackers allegedly sent a video message addressed to Richard Plepler, HBO’s President, and CEO. According to the video, the cyber thieves wanted the company to pay them their six-month salary, which amounts to around $6 million USD in bitcoin, in exchange for the files.
The video letter, written by a certain ‘Mr. Smith‘ who poses as the leader of group of hackers behind the leak, they demanded an unspecified amount of money as ransom for the stolen files.
A part of the scrolling video was quoted by Wired:
“Our demand is clear and Non-Negotiable: We want XXXX dollars to stop leaking your Data. HBO spends 12 million for Market Research and 5 million for GOT7 advertisements. So consider us another budget for your advertisements!”
The video also states how HBO could suffer from the continuous leakage of information. Telling the company, “Leakage will be your worst nightmare,” and “So make a wise decision!”
The video ends with an image of the infamous Game of Thrones villain, the Night King with arms raised and the word ‘standing’ in one hand and ‘falling’ in the other.
In a statement sent by HBO spokesperson Jeff Cusson to Wired, he said:
“We continue to work around the clock with outside cybersecurity firms and law enforcement to resolve the incident.”
This is not the first time that hackers have targeted an entertainment company in Hollywood. In 2014, Sony also fell victim to hacking. Reports claimed that 100 terabytes of stolen data were uploaded by the hackers online, making the company the biggest hack victim in the history of Hollywood entertainment.
In April this year, a hacker was also able to penetrate Netflix, stealing episodes of Orange is the New Black which were also leaked ahead of the series’ summer return.