TheJournal.ie uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Click here to find out more »
Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 12 December, 2017
Advertisement

Hackers demand millions in ransom for stolen HBO data

They’ve threatened to upload entire series and sensitive proprietary files.

A scene from Game of Thrones
A scene from Game of Thrones
Image: HBO

A GROUP OF hackers have posted a fresh cache of stolen HBO files online and demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom from the network to prevent the release of entire television series and other sensitive proprietary files.

HBO, which had previously acknowledged the theft of “proprietary information”, said it’s continuing to investigate and is working with police and cybersecurity experts.

In a five-minute video from ‘Mr Smith’ to HBO CEO Richard Plepler included in the dump, the hackers used white text scrolling on a black background to deliver an ultimatum. In short: Pay up within three days or see the group, which claims to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of HBO shows and confidential corporate data, upload entire series and sensitive proprietary files.

Specifically, the hackers demanded “our six-month salary in bitcoin”, and claimed they earn $12 million to $15 million (about €10 million to €12.7 million) a year from blackmailing organisations whose networks they have penetrated. They said they would only deal directly with “Richard” and only send one “letter” detailing how to pay.

The dump itself was just 3.4 gigabytes — mostly technical data that appears to provide a topography of HBO’s network and to list network administrator passwords.

It includes what appear to be draft scripts from five Game of Thrones episodes, including one upcoming episode, and a month’s worth of emails apparently from the account of Leslie Cohen, HBO’s vice president for film programming.

The network reiterated yesterday that it doesn’t believe its email system as a whole has been compromised.

‘HBO Is Falling’

The video text was written in often flawed but fluent English peppered with misspellings and pop-culture references.

The hackers claimed it took them about six months to breach HBO’s network. Their biggest threat appears to be dumping videos of future shows online with their logo ‘HBO Is Falling’ superimposed.

Many of the more than 50 internal documents in the dump were labelled “confidential”, including a spreadsheet of legal claims against the network, job offer letters to several top executives, slides discussing future technology plans and a list of 37,977 emails called ‘Richard’s Contact list’, an apparent reference to Plepler.

One screenshot labeled ‘Highly Confidential’ by the hackers listed folders such as ‘Penguin Random House’, ‘Licensing & Retail’, ‘Legal’, ‘International’ and ‘Budgets’. Another document appears to contain the confidential cast list for Game of Thrones, listing personal phone numbers and email addresses for actors such as Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke.

So far, however, the HBO leaks have been limited, falling well short of the chaos inflicted on Sony in 2014. In that attack, hackers possibly associated with North Korea unearthed thousands of embarrassing emails. They released personal information, including salaries and social security numbers, of nearly 50,000 current and former Sony employees.

The video letter uploaded yesterday claimed the hackers spend $500,000 (about €423,000) a year to purchase “zero-day” exploits that let them break into networks through holes not yet know to Microsoft and other software companies. It claims HBO is the hackers’ 17th target and that only three of their past targets refused to pay.

Read: 9/11 victim’s remains identified nearly 16 years later

Read: 83-year-old man stabbed to death while walking his dogs

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next:

COMMENTS (39)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

Leave a commentcancel

Trending Tags