All is not well at HBO. Last week, an unnamed hacking group claimed to have stolen reams of top-secret files from the company behind Game of Thrones. And now the hackers have shown their full hand.
Having initially posted around half a gigabyte of unreleased HBO shows and scripts online, the hackers have now upped their game. Now only does the latest leak include scripts for the first five episodes of the current series of Game of Thrones – the fifth of which isn’t aired until August 13 – there are also thousands of emails, financial documents and strategy guidelines. And, inevitability, there’s a ransom note. One folder appears to contain legal documents, budgets and phone numbers and email addresses of top HBO executives and actors. “In a complicate operation, we successfully penetrated into the HBO,” read a garbled statement from the hackers.
In a video posted online, the hackers – who claim to earn up to $15 million a year from extorting companies – demanded “our six-month salary in bitcoin”. The ultimatum? Pay up within three days or the group will upload everything it claims to have stolen. As well as a video detailing their demands, the hackers also claim to have sent a letter to HBO CEO Richard Plepler. As the original ransom letter isn’t dated, it isn’t clear when the three-day clock started ticking.
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The hacker’s website claims the leak is the “greatest of the cyber space era” and promises “precious and confidential stuff that blaze your eyes”. HBO has remained tight-lipped about the hack, saying that it doesn’t believe its entire email system had been compromised. While Game of Thrones is undoubtedly the main target (the hackers demands are appropriately themed: “HBO is Falling”) the files leaked to date also include unreleased episodes of Barry, Insecure, Ballers and Room with more “coming soon”. The group claims to have 1.5 terabytes of data in total.
The site also encourages people to “Download the leak. Enjoy & spread it” and concludes with an ominous “To be continued…” warning. At the time of writing the hacker’s website is down, though a cached version is still available.
While the theft of episodes from some of HBO’s top shows would undoubtedly be embarrassing for the company, the hacker’s apparent access to gigabytes of internal documents could prove more damaging. The 2014 Sony Pictures hack, which US officials blamed on North Korea, made public the private email exchanges of some of the company’s top executives, including statements about Barack Obama that were described as racist and details of the company’s US lobbying efforts.