A group has hacked the entertainment company HBO and are blackmailing the company for millions of dollars.
The hackers are threatening to leak scripts of the popular TV show, Game of Thrones and other data from HBO if they aren’t paid in Bitcoins. They have already released upcoming episodes of other shows produced by the company.
In the recent years, large media companies have become targets to hacking. In 2013, three South Korean broadcasters fell victim to cyber-attacks. National broadcasters, KBS, MBC and YTN noted that their computer networks had come to a complete halt thus affected broadcast. At the time, the government said that it believed North Korea was behind the hack.
In 2014, film studio, Sony Pictures was hacked by a group which identified itself as "Guardians of Peace" (GOP). The group released personal emails, information and details about employees working in Sony. It also leaked a number of confidential data. The group demanded that the studio should pull one of its films called The Interview. The film featured a plot to assassinate North Korean leader. The US intelligence agencies said that North Korea could possibly be behind the attacks but the country denied its involvement.
HBO is owned by Time Warner. It is a successful American premium cable and satellite television network. One of the TV shows that it telecasts is the hit TV series, Game of Thrones. The show is highly successful for the network. According to various media reports, $10 million dollars are spent to produce one episode of Game of Thrones.
The hacker or the group of hackers responsible for the HBO leaks have called themselves, “Mr Smith”. The group has already leaked the script of one of the unaired episodes of Game of Thrones. It has also reportedly leaked the phone numbers and other personal details of the cast in the show. BBC has published part of the ransom note, which has been redacted in parts. It reads, “Our demand is clear and non-negotiable: we want XXXX dollars to stop leaking your data. HBO spends $12m for market research and $5m for [Game of Thrones series seven] advertisements. So, consider us another budget for your advertisements."
HBO has stated that it is currently working with authorities to resolve the problem. It has also stated that it does not believe that its entire email system has been compromised. According to the hackers, it reportedly took them six months to break into HBO’s system. They are now claiming their “six month salary in Bitcoins.” The hackers note that they allegedly make $12 to $15 million in a year from blackmailing organizations.
Our assessment is that organizations are becoming increasingly vulnerable to hacks. Regardless of the kind of security systems already in place, hackers have been able to continuously innovate and beat the system.