How did a hacker get his hands on the latest script of Game of Thrones (GoT), episode 5, season 7? It was an email hack plain and simple.
The good news? “We do not believe that our e-mail system as a whole has been compromised,” said HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler in an internal memo to staff. (Source)
GoT is not just a show, it’s the crown jewel of HBO programming, and the most popular show in the world. An average of 23 million American viewers watched GoT last season.
The leak was quite a coup for a hacker strangely referred to as “Mr. Smith”. Mr. Smith demanded $6 million in bitcoin ransom (Source), threatening to release valuable data if the ransom wasn’t paid. HBO tried stalling by offering a $250,000 “good faith” payment as part of a “bug bounty” award. The stalling tactic failed and the hacker made good on his threats. He’s been releasing valuable data steadily over the last few weeks. Source
Leaked data includes:
Initially Mr. Smith claimed to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of data from HBO. (One terabyte is enough to store about 250 movies.) Some experts believe that the hackers don’t have much more of value or they would have already leaked it.
HBO had ANOTHER leak this week – a full GoT episode scheduled to air on Sunday was published online. But HBO is blaming a human error on an India-based media technology company and HBO vendor. Source
How did Mr. Smith hack into HBO’s system? Was it even a hack?
Be aware, many are generalizing any Internet crime as a “hack”, misdiagnosing the issue or tactics. Often these are really due to “human error”. Examples include the sophisticated “whaling” attacks where the recipient of an email is lured into engaging in a back-and-forth email exchange with an imposter posing as a vendor or trusted colleague. When these result in an email exchange that divulges information to access file repositories or other valuable data, the Internet criminal wins. In today’s environment, the Internet criminals are more often phishing for human error rather than credit card numbers.
The HBO leak was almost certainly the result of this type of advanced phishing or “whaling” campaign targeted at HBO executives and possibly studio partners. One tricked person with the right level of seniority can provide access to the network.
HBO is still trying to quantify the actual damage. HBO parent Time Warner has reason to worry as it seeks to close its acquisition by AT&T by the end of the year. It’s possible that other Time Warner assets were affected by the leak including: CNN, Warner Brothers and DC Comics.
We hope that HBO can prevent further hacks…..
RPost recommends RMail anti-whaling technology that runs within Microsoft Outlook and alerts you when an email comes from an imposter posing as a legitimate friend, supplier, partner or vendor.
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