NEW YORK — The FBI will announce charges Tuesday against an Iranian national for hacking the servers of Home Box Office, Inc. (HBO), stealing data – including scripts of the popular television series “Game of Thrones” – and attempting to extort $6 million worth of the digital currency bitcoin from the company.
Behzad Mesri, also known online as Skote Vahshat, is an Iran-based computer hacker, the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York stated in an indictment.
He has worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure, according to the FBI. The FBI also said Mesri was a member of the hacker group Turk Black Hat Security team and conducted hundreds of website defacements.
Mesri is accused of repeatedly obtaining unauthorized access to HBO’s servers.
“Over the course of several months, Mesri used that unauthorized access to steal confidential and proprietary information belonging to HBO which he then exfiltrated to computer servers under his control,” the FBI said.
Mesri reportedly stole video files of unaired episodes of HBO television programs, including “Ballers,” “Barry,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Deuce.” He also allegedly took scripts and plot summaries for unaired programming, such as episodes of “Game of Thrones,” confidential cast and crew contact lists, employee emails, financial documents and online credentials for HBO social media accounts.
He then sent a series of anonymous emails to multiple HBO executives, employees, and other representatives providing proof that he had hacked into their systems, according to the FBI.
“Hi to All losers! Yes it’s true! HBO is hacked! Beware of heart Attack!!!” one message said.
Another email was sent that threatened to publicly release the stolen data unless HBO paid a “non-negotiable” ransom of $5.5 million worth of bitcoin. A later email upped the amount to approximately $6 million in bitcoin and also threatened to wipe information off of HBO’s servers.
Starting around July of this year and continuing into August, Mesri reportedly began publicly leaking the stolen data online. Some of the leaked videos included a graphic of the “Game of Thrones” character the Night King with the message: “Winter is coming. HBO is falling.”
There will be a FBI press conference on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. to announce the charges against Mesri.
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