Looks like ‘Littlefinger’ is causing chaos not just in Westeros, but at HBO as well. On July 27, American cable network company HBO discovered that its network has been compromised and breached by a coordinated cyber attack that could possibly leak 1.5 terabytes of data. Two days later, the company’s employees were notified of the incident and also warned not to open suspicious mails.
The very next day, hacker(s) under the alias little.finger66 claimed to have pulled off the “greatest leak of cyberspace era", followed by what looks like a script of the unaired fourth episode of the widely popular series, Game of Thrones. The episode itself is scheduled to be aired on August 6.
“Hi to all mankind. The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!! You are lucky to be the first pioneers to witness and download the leak. Enjoy it & spread the words. Whoever spreads well, we will have an interview with him. HBO is falling.”
- Anonymous mail sent by hacker(s). Source: EW
Additionally, unaired content of several shows like Ballers, Room 104 and Barry were also leaked. With seven times more data being compromised than during the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, thousands of internal company documents have also been allegedly hacked in this incident.
The hackers have already leaked private information of a senior company executive, and claim that they have access to the network infrastructure and can possibly compromise more sensitive employee data, emails and other internal documents.
On August 2, HBO CEO Richard Plepler wrote in an email to employees that while the breach is still being reviewed, the company doesn’t believe that the entire mailing system was affected. According to Hollywood Reporter, hackers haven’t yet demanded any ransom for not publishing the stolen data.
Hollywood Reporter also reported that the company is currently working with cybersecurity firm Mandiant and the FBI to investigate the incident further.
“Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests..The problem before us is unfortunately all too familiar in the world we now find ourselves a part of."
- HBO CEO Richard Plepler’s email to employees. Source: EW
Since the last couple of years, HBO has had a very difficult time in keeping Game of Thrones from being leaked prior to official airing of episodes online. From four episodes of Season 5 having leaked before the premiere in 2015, to a leaked Comic-Con trailer this year, the company is in a constant battle against illegal distribution of its content. However, this is the first time that the network has been an actual victim of a sophisticated cyberattack.
This isn’t the first time that a network has been compromised and its content has been distributed illegally. In 2014, 200 GB of Sony Pictures’ data was released on the internet. This not only led to the exit of Amy Pascal, then co-chair of the company, but also proved to be a huge loss for the company.
Earlier this year, American entertainment company Netflix incurred huge losses after an anonymous hacker released the entire fifth season of Orange is the New Black, claiming that the company had failed to respond to the ransom demands of the hacker.
However, without any ransom demand, the motive behind this HBO hack is still unclear. If little.finger66 don't want anything, will they just release all the data online?
Update: In a second wave of data dump on August 8, the hacker revealed the motive behind the hack: extortion. In an exclusive, Mashable reports that it had obtained a portion of the new documents, which include leaked scripts of HBO shows and CEO Richard Plepler’s contact list. The dump also included a ransom note in the form of a 5-minute long video with the soundtrack of Game of Thrones in the background.
The note begins by identifying the hacker identifies as a “Mr. Smith,” and reveals that the HBO hack allegedly took six months to complete. The ‘note’ is over 1,700 words long, claims the hack was carried out by white hat hackers and ends with a ransom demand of about USD 7 million in bitcoin.
Excerpt from the note:
“The answer is simple: we are white-Hat. You must trust us. The HBO is our 17th Target. Only 3 of our past targets refused to pay and were punished very badly and 2 of them collapse entirely.
How are you able to stop a group like us that spends about 400-500,000 dollars in a year to buy 0days exploits? We often launch two major operations in a year and our annual income is about 12-15 million dollars. We are serious enough to do our business, the main questions is this: How much is your seriousness to keep your empire on its feet in a NEW BRAVE WORLD?”
For the full note, see Mashable’s exclusive report here.