Game of Thrones Nathalie Emmanuel
Remember the ‘Game of Thrones’ leak? An Iranian hacker was charged with stealing HBO scripts to raise bitcoin
The HBO hack that gave ‘Game of Thrones’ fans a tantalizing taste of unaired Season 7 episodes has a culprit: A former Iranian military hacker who was in it for the money.
U.S. prosecutors charged Behzad Mesri with stealing material including scripts to ‘Game Of Thrones’ this summer, saying he demanded $6 billion in untraceable digital currency as extortion.
Behzad Mesri, charged with computer and wire fraud and extortion for hacking into HBO, stealing shows and then demanding $6 million in untraceable Bitcoin as ransom. The photo is from the FBI wanted poster. (Photo: FBI)
Mesri is believed to still be in Iran but the charges should send a message to everyone who attacks U.S. targets, said officials.
“He will forever be looking over his shoulder and if he isn’t, he should be,” said U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in a press conference Tuesday in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in New York City.
Mesri once worked for the Iranian government as a hacker, where he attacked nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure, according to the grand jury indictment released Tuesday.
In this attack, however, it appeared he was only hoping for an enormous payout for his hacking, paid in untraceable bitcoin. When HBO didn’t pay, Mesri begin leaking the shows on July 30.
According to emails released in July, HBO offered to make a good faith payment of $250,00 as part of the negotiations. HBO would not comment on whether that payment was ever made.
Mesri had conducted reconnaissance on HBO’s computer network and employees, looking for vulnerabilities, said the indictment.
He was able to compromise multiple accounts and used them to obtain unauthorized access to the company’s network. He then stole confidential and proprietary data from HBO that included unaired episodes of HBO shows including ‘Ballers’, ‘Barry,’ ‘Room 104,’ ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ and ‘The Deuce.’
He also was able to obtain full scripts and cast lists for ‘Game of Thrones,’ only two episodes of which had been released at that point.
On July 23, Mesri sent an email to HBO executives that read, “Hi to all Losers! Yes it’s true! HBO is hacked! … Beware of heart attack!!!” A week later he send information on where to send ransom payments. The next day, he began leaking videos of the shows.
“HBO has confirmed in the past that we were working with law enforcement from the early stages of the cyber incident. As far as the criminal case is concerned, we prefer to leave any comments to the US Attorney’s Office,” HBO said in a statement.
Some of the material Mesri is alleged to have leaked included the HBO logo with an image of Game of Thrones Winter King superimposed over it, with the words “Winter is Coming. HBO is Falling,” added in.
“Hackers may think they’re face behind the anonymity of the keyboard,” said Kim. “But eventually, winter will come.”