Hackers Demand Ransom for Stolen HBO Data

'Game of Thrones' scripts and internal emails leak as hackers threaten to release "damaging information" if ransom demands go unmet

On Monday, the hackers behind HBO's recent data breach demanded ransom to prevent the release of proprietary information. Credit: HBO

Hackers posted new information stolen from HBO online on Monday, including scripts from Game of Thrones episodes, potentially sensitive internal documents and emails from a top network executive, according to the Associated Press. Along with the new dump came threats of more damage to come, as the hackers demanded millions of dollars in ransom to prevent the release of additional information.

AP reports that the hackers – who go by "Mr. Smith" – leaked five Game of Thrones scripts, including one from an unreleased episode. The hackers also posted a number of emails from Leslie Cohen, HBO's vice president for film programming, and other internal communications at HBO. In a video message, the hackers demanded that HBO chief executive Richard Plepler furnish them with "our 6 month salary in bitcoin" (reportedly $6 million) to prevent further leaks of scripts, unreleased episodes of the network's shows and "information damaging to HBO."

Hacks like this have become increasingly commonplace. The most notable example was the 2014 hack of Sony, which led to executive turnover and a searchable archive of over 30,000 internal documents that eventually appeared on Wikileaks. Earlier this year, hackers leaked the entirety of Netflix's new season of Orange Is the New Black more than a month early after the service did not meet their ransom demands. It's unclear if those who leaked OITNB, have any connection to the current hack.

News of the HBO hack first broke on July 31st after hackers emailed several journalists claiming to have obtained 1.5 terabytes of data from the network. HBO later confirmed that a hack "resulted in the compromise of proprietary information."

Plepler addressed the incident in a company-wide email. "Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us," he wrote. "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 efforts across multiple departments have been nothing short of herculean," he added. "… As has been the case with any challenge we have ever faced, I have absolutely no doubt that we will navigate our way through this successfully."