US federal authorities have charged a man alleged to have been involved in stealing unaired HBO shows and scripts for Game of Thrones.
The alleged hacker broke in to US broadcaster HBO’s computer system and demanded a ransom in Bitcoin. In return, he promised to destroy the files he had obtained and not release the material online.
According to an indictment filed by the US District Court in Manhattan, the suspect is Behzad Mesri, a member of the Turk Black Hat Security hacking team who has worked for the Iranian military on computer attacks against Israel.
NBC News reports that the indictment is likely part of the US government’s “name and shame” strategy used to quell interference from foreign hackers that are unlikely to be turned over for prosecution.
“Real consequences” await Mesri, according to acting US Attorney Joon Kim – though he will only be prosecuted if he leaves Iran.
“He will never be able to travel outside of Iran without fear of being arrested and brought here to face these charges,” Kim said. “The memory of American law enforcement is very long.”
The indictment alleges that Mesri gained access to the HBO servers in May, getting his hands on hotly anticipated unaired episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Ballers, and scripts from Game of Thrones season 7. In July, he began to send taunting messages to HBO executives, before ultimately demanding a ransom of $5.5m in Bitcoin.
At the time, a statement from HBO said that they would not be indulging the hacker’s requests.