Iranian Hacker Charged with Extortion over HBO Cyberattack

Game Of Thrones 'HBO' Hacker Has Been Finally Identified And Charged

Behzad Mesri, 29, an alleged member of an Iran-based group of hackers called the Turk Black Hat security team, was charged with breaking into HBO's computer servers and trying to extort US$6 million (S$8.1 million) in bitcoin from the cable network.

The indictment, filed in NY, alleges that in July this year Mesri stole "confidential and proprietary data belonging to HBO, including video files of unaired episodes of Ballers, Barry, Room 104, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce".

The stolen data also reportedly included unaired episodes and scripts of the fan-favorite Game of Thrones, an epic medieval fantasy show.

Beginning in May, Mesri searched for ways to get into Home Box Office's network, using points where employees and other authorised users accessed the system from outside, according to prosecutors.

Although Mesri is not in custody, prosecutors made a decision to publicly charge him and put him on the FBI's most-wanted list to send a message to outlaw hackers that U.S. law enforcement has the means to identify, track and get them arrested if they travel to countries where the United States has better relations, acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

He allegedly downloaded huge amounts of data, including video files of unreleased episodes of Ballers, Barry, Room 104, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce.

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It's worth noting that Mesri was previously a hacker for the Iranian Army.

US federal prosecutors allege that Mesri leaked some of the stolen data on the Internet.

Mr Kim declined to say if HBO had offered or paid any ransom.

In recent years, hackers have increasingly used cyber extortion - or stealing corporate secrets and threatening to publicize them if the victims don't pay a ransom - as a way to make money, with Hollywood studios as particularly attractive targets, experts say. "Yes it's true! HBO is hacked..."

HBO is a growth engine for Time Warner, generating $4.65 billion in revenue in the first nine months of the year, about 21% of the company's total revenue.

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