It’s been a summer of highs and lows for HBO. While their critically acclaimed fantasy epic Game of Thrones has achieved record viewership, some of which has spilled over to its other shows Insecure and Ballers, the premium cable network’s been targeted by a shadowy cabal of hackers who have been holding it hostage.
Back on July 30, The Daily Beast—along with numerous other media outlets—received a mysterious email from an anonymous account with the headline, “1.5 TB of HBO data just leaked!!!” The body of the email read as follows: “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forgot 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.” At the bottom of the message, it directed all enquiries to a specific HBO executive—leading some to surmise that the perpetrator(s) could consist of at least one disgruntled former employee.
The email directed to a website (that has since been taken down) that included some of the contents of the 1.5 TB of information that had been stolen from HBO, including two yet-to-be-aired Game of Thrones episodes, internal company documents, and more.
According to CNBC, in order to stop the leaks, “The hackers demanded money [in bitcoin] worth six months of their salary, claiming they make $12 million to $15 million from stealing intellectual property and blackmailing companies. Those hackers appear to have been engaged in email correspondence with HBO.” An email obtained by CNBC that was sent from HBO to the hackers on July 27 read: “As a show of good faith on our side, we are willing to commit to making a bug bounty payment of $250,000 to you as soon as we can establish the necessary account and acquire bitcoin.”
HBO has refused to give in to the cyberterrorists’ demands, so the leaks have continued—including dozens of personal emails from executives, and entire unaired episodes of shows, including three episodes of Game of Thrones, two episodes of Insecure, pilot episodes to the upcoming series The Deuce and Barry, two episodes of the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more.
In the early hours Saturday morning, the hackers sent what they are calling the “6th wave” of leaks to media outlets, consisting of contractual information for the stars of Game of Thrones’ seventh season, as well as episode summaries and script outlines for the entire seventh season of Thrones—including the unaired seventh episode (and season finale) airing this Sunday, and login/password information for HBO’s social media pages, including all of its hit shows. Furthermore, the hackers have threatened to release the Game of Thrones finale episode.
The social media info leak comes on the heels of HBO’s social media pages—including Facebook and Twitter—being hacked on August 16 by a security hacking group that calls itself OurMine. Social media accounts for HBO, Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and various other programs all displayed the message, “Hi, OurMine are here, we are just testing your security, HBO team please contact us to upgrade the security.” The group followed it up with posts that read, “let’s make #HBOHacked trending!”
It is not yet known whether the two hacks are related.
“We successfully breached into your huge network,” the hackers behind the initial breach said in a video message inserted in one of the data dumps. “HBO was one of our difficult targets to deal with but we succeeded (it took about 6 months).”