Hacker Claims To Be Holding HBO Data For Ransom

The saga around a recent hack attack at HBO just keeps getting deeper. Now, hackers that claim to have a whole lot of unreleased programming and potentially embarrassing internal documentation are saying they might not release it… if HBO pays them big bucks to stay quiet.

The AP now reports that the attackers who claim to have grabbed a massive volume of data from inside HBO — including unreleased episodes of flagship drama Game of Thrones — are waiting to release it, seeing if they’ll get paid off first.

A slow drip… so far

The persons behind the hack have already released a dump of a little more than 3 GB worth of data, the AP says — mostly internal documents about the company’s network, a month’s worth of email from one executive’s account, and a few draft scripts from Game of Thrones.

That’s a mere fraction — 2%, give or take — of the roughly 1.5 TB of data the attackers claim to have stolen. But included in that initial dump was a video addressed to HBO CEO Richard Plepler.

That video, which the AP describes as “swaggering,” gives Plepler an ultimatum: Pay up in three days, or else we release all of it.

The hackers are demanding the equivalent of 6 months of their salary for ransom. And what is the annual salary of a hacker criminal, you may wonder? They claim their annual take from extortion is $12-$15 million per year — so they basically want at least $6 million worth of bitcoin.

Will they do it?

The hackers have released screenshots showing other folders of data, including some labeled “Highly Confidential,” that purport to include licensing and retail deals, legal documents, budget documents, and publishing arrangements.

Whether or not the attackers have the data they claim to is, of course, another matter. That’s something that Plepler’s investigative team — including both law enforcement and cybersecurity experts — are going to want to sort out very, very quickly.

HBO has been downplaying the extent and severity of the attack, the AP notes, reassuring employees that the network’s whole email system has not been breached and hiring a vendor to help employees monitor their own financial accounts.

The Aug. 6 episode of Game of Thrones did leak last week in advance of its air date, but HBO said that leak was unrelated to the big cyberattack. Basically, that episode getting loose into the wild was more your sort of standard-issue leaking and piracy.

The broader attack appears to be more like the hack that Sony suffered in late 2014. However, in that instance, attackers simply dumped all of the data they stole into the public, leaving Sony to deal with the fallout.