Earlier this month, HBO became the latest network to be hit by cyber attackers, resulting in the indiscriminate leak of a part of its popular series Game of Thrones (GOT) and other contents from other productions.
Consequently, a group of hackers posted a fresh cache of the stolen HBO files including GOT cast info online on Monday, demanding an eye-popping ransom from the network. This is to prevent the release of the entire television series and other sensitive files to the general public.
The hackers claimed they make $12m to $15m a year from blackmailing organisations who are unfortunate to fall under their hacking skills. In the video letter uploaded on Monday, the hackers claimed they spend a half million dollars a year to purchase “zero-day” exploits which they use in breaking into networks through holes unknown to Microsoft and other software companies.
In their ransom conditions, they said they would only deal directly with “Richard”, referring to the CEO of HBO Richard Plepler and that they will only send one “letter” with details on how to pay the ransom. Apparently, the group, which claims to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of HBO shows and confidential corporate data would upload the entire series and sensitive data if the demand is not met.
A five-minute video from “Mr. Smith” to Plepler included in the dump has all the details. The hackers used white text scrolling on a black background to deliver an ultimatum with a grace of three days.
What lies in the dump
The 3.4 gigabytes dump contains mostly technical data that appear to provide a topography of HBO’s network and a list of network-administrator passwords. Also, what appears to be draft scripts from five GOT episodes, including one upcoming episode, and a month’s worth of email from Leslie Cohen’s account, HBO’s vice president for film programming were also listed.
For the most part, the more than 50 internal documents in the dump were labeled “confidential.” This includes a spreadsheet of legal claims against the network, job offer letters to several top executives, slides discussing future technology plans and a list of 37 977 emails called “Richard’s Contact list.”
One screenshot labeled “Highly Confidential” by the hackers listed folders such as “Penguin Random House,” ”Licensing & Retail,” ”Legal,” ”International” and “Budgets.” While another document appears to contain the confidential cast list for Game of Thrones, personal cellphone numbers and email addresses for prominent actors such as Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and Emilia Clark were also listed.
The hackers claimed it took them about 6 months to breach HBO’s network. Once they succeeded, they started dumping videos of future shows online with their logo “HBO Is Falling” superimposed.