HBO surrenders to Game of Thrones hacker demands (kind of)

Eric Abent - Aug 11, 2017
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HBO surrenders to Game of Thrones hacker demands (kind of)

HBO’s unfortunate hacking saga continues today with news that the company has made an offer to pay the hackers who made off with 1.5TB of data from its servers. We first learned of the breach last Monday, when the hackers put full, unaired episodes of some shows out in the open alongside a partial script for Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode, The Spoils of War. Then, earlier this week, those same hackers got a little more serious by releasing more internal data and demanding a ransom to halt the trickle release of information.

Those hackers demanded that HBO pay 6 months of their salary in Bitcoin, and they say they make $12 million to $15 million dollars each year by carrying out data breaches like this and then holding the information they steal ransom. That means HBO would need to pay $6 million to $7.5 million to get them to back off – a pretty penny indeed.

Today, we’re hearing that HBO is putting up some amount of money, but it’s not nearly the amount the hackers are demanding. CNBC has obtained and verified a July 27 email from an HBO IT employee that says the company is working on establishing an account necessary to buy and send Bitcoin. In the message, the company offers a “bug bounty payment of $250,000” as a show of good faith.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that HBO is planning on paying the full ransom eventually. According to an anonymous source close to the matter, this offer was made as a “delay tactic.” That source also notes that HBO is no longer in contact with the hackers, which means that it may just let them release what they have.

One concern is that these hackers have their hands on significant spoilers for high-profile HBO series like Game of Thrones. So far, only a few Game of Thrones scripts have been released, but there’s no telling what else those hackers are sitting on. Internally, HBO has to worry about these hackers releasing sensitive information like emails, contacts, and details on pending litigation.

We’ll see where this ultimately leads, but if HBO has truly cut off contact with the hackers, we’ll probably see more information leak before long. The timing is rather bad for Game of Thrones fans as well, since there are only three more episodes left to go in the current season. In other words: be wary of spoilers as you traverse the internet in the coming days and weeks.


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