Entertainment TV HBO hacker charged over Game of Thrones extortion

HBO hacker charged over Game of Thrones extortion

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The hacker threatened to leak advance plot summaries for Game of Thrones. Photo: HBO
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US prosecutors have charged an Iranian national with hacking into cable TV network HBO and stealing episodes and plot summaries for unaired programs including Game of Thrones.

Behzad Mesri, also known as Skote Vahshat, was charged with the hack in a sealed indictment released on Tuesday local time by the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Mesri threatening to release the hacked data unless he was paid $US6 million ($A8.4 million).

Acting US Attorney Joon Kim said at a news conference that Mesri was in Iran.

Mr Kim said Mesri would face consequences even though US authorities could not immediately arrest him.

“He will never be able to travel outside of Iran without fear of being arrested and brought here,” Mr Kim said.

Prosecutors said Mesri had worked on behalf of Iran’s military to attack military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure.

They also alleged that he helped an Iranian hacking group, Turk Black Hat Security Team, deface hundreds of websites in the United States and other countries.

The cyber attack surfaced earlier this year as HBO was running a new season of Game of Thrones, and as the cable network’s parent Time Warner Inc sought regulatory approval to sell itself to AT&T Inc in an $US85.4 billion deal announced in October 2016.

The indictment charged Mesri with hacking into HBO from May to August and stealing unaired episodes of programs such as Ballers, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce.

Mesri also stole scripts and plot summaries for Game of Thrones, according to the indictment.

He demanded up to $US6 million in extortion emails to HBO staff to keep the data secret, some of which ended with photos of the Night King, a menacing zombie villain from Game of Thrones, according to the indictment.

HBO Chairman Richard Plepler confirmed the hack in a message to employees in August.

“As most of you have probably heard by now, there has been a cyber incident directed at the company which has resulted in some stolen proprietary information, including some of our programming,” Plepler wrote.