USA indicts Iranian in 'Game of Thrones' HBO hack

Kelvin Reese
November 22, 2017

U.S. prosecutors have charged an Iranian national with hacking into cable TV network HBO and stealing episodes and plot summaries for unaired programs including Game of Thrones, then threatening to release the data unless he was paid $US6 million ($A8.4 million).

Behzad Mesri is believed to still be in Iran but the charges send a message to everyone who attacks USA targets, said officials.

According to the indictment, Mesri is a "self-professed expert in computer hacking techniques, and had worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure".

They also alleged that he helped an Iranian hacking group, Turk Black Hat Security Team, deface hundreds of websites in the United States and other countries.

Prosecutors said Mesri threatened to destroy data on HBO's computer system or release the stolen material unless he received $6 million in Bitcoin.

Included in the theft were scripts for the shows "Game of Thrones", "Ballers", "Barry", "Room 104", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", and "The Deuce".

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On July 23, Mesri sent an email to HBO executives that read, "Hi to all Losers!"

He breached several user accounts in the network and stole data from servers, later asking for a ransom worth a total of $6 million in Bitcoin.

Emails, financial balance sheets, employment agreements and marketing strategies, were listed among the 1.5 terabytes of data claimed to have been stolen by the then-unnamed hackers. He was not, however, working for the Iranian government when he allegedly hacked HBO. His emails includes images of the "Game of Thrones" character the Night King with messages like, "Good luck to HBO".

"We made that determination that we were not likely to be able to get him and we should go public with it, " Kim said.

Prosecutors are expected to release more information at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Some federal officials have raised concerns that unsealing cases now could imperil ongoing investigative work or make it harder to catch suspects who might travel out of Iran, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss active investigations.

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