Iranian Hacker Charged in HBO Breach

Prosecutors say Behzad Mesri stole unreleased episodes of popular television shows and then sought to extort HBO
HBO's 'Game of Thrones' hacker hit with charges in the US
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24 November, 2017

Prosecutors said Mr Mesri had worked on behalf of Iran's military to attack military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure. The indictment, however, is part of a "name and shame" strategy the US has used in the past to quell interference by foreign hackers it doesn't expect to be turned over.

According to the indictment, Mesri sought to gain access to HBO's networks by breaking into employee user accounts.

The high-profile hack played out publicly over the summer, as the unknown perpetrators leaked the script of an episode from the eighth season "Game of Thrones" before it aired.

He demanded up to $7.91 million in extortion emails to HBO staff to keep the data secret, some of which ended with photos of the Night King, a menacing zombie villain from Game of Thrones, according to the indictment.

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A computer hacker who used to work for the Iranian military has been charged with breaching HBO servers to steal scripts of unaired "Game of Thrones" episodes and other unaired episodes of hit network shows, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

But Tuesday's indictment comes just days after The Washington Post reported that Trump administration officials were pressuring DOJ prosecutors to announce more cases against Iranian hackers, giving it added diplomatic significance. And officials have conceded that it would be hard to arrest him and take him into custody. HBO received emails that indicated the information and episodes were being held for ransom, and that they would be released and/or destroyed if the cabler did not pay, Kim said, adding that HBO did not make payments. He said he had taken a huge trove of data - approximately 1.5 terabytes - and provided proof of his claim. He was not, however, working for the Iranian government when he allegedly hacked HBO. "HBO is hacked.Beware of heart attacks". Just previous year, he noted, the federal government charged seven Iranians with carrying out a cyber attack on dozens of U.S. banks on behalf of the Iranian government.

Indicting foreign government hackers is often viewed more as a tool of deterrence and diplomacy than an attempt to bring the digital assailants to justice, since their governments will never extradite them to face charges.


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