Iran-based hacker charged with trying to extort HBO

Oscar Cross
November 24, 2017

The hacker has now been identitfied as Iranian Behzad Mesri, and according to Variety, he is being charged with "seven criminal counts, including computer hacking and fraud; wired fraud; interstate transmission of an extortionate communication; and aggravated identity theft".

Mesri, who is not in U.S. custody, previously worked for the Iranian military to conduct computer attacks against defence systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure, according to an indictment returned by a grand jury Nov 7 and unsealed on Tuesday (Nov 21).

Bezhad Mesri, the hacker known as "Skote Vahshat", has been charged with hacking into and stealing episodes, scripts, and plot summaries from HBO, between May and August of this year.

A lawyer for Mr. Mesri couldn't immediately be identified. The hacker claimed he had 1.5 terrabytes of information, and tried to extort HBO for $6 million in bitcoin.

Kim said the decision was made to go public after a determination that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was unlikely to be able to lure Mesri to a place where he could be arrested.

He allegedly downloaded huge amounts of data, including video files of unreleased episodes of Ballers, Barry, Room 104, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce. In July, he began to send taunting messages to HBO executives, before ultimately demanding a ransom of $5.5m in Bitcoin.

Although the document doesn't state that the Iranian Regime told Mesri to attack HBO, it should be made clear that he is deeply tied to the Regime and would be unlikely to attack such a prominent target without their permission.

The theft consisted of terabytes of information, which wasn't limited to scripts and unaired episodes. The email concluded with an image of the Night King, a character from "Game of Thrones", and said: "Good luck to HBO".

US federal prosecutors allege that Mesri leaked some of the stolen data on the Internet.

He then leaked content to the world via websites under his control and a Twitter account.

A spokesman for HBO said Tuesday that the company has been "working with law enforcement from the early stages of the cyber incident".

It is unclear if HBO paid any part of the ransom to the hacker. The hack at HBO happened nearly three years after a high-profile breach at Sony Corp., which unleashed a trove of emails that embarrassed top executives.

However, the leaks didn't affect Game of Thrones in the long run as the show continued to break the records.

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