'Winter has come' for Iranian charged with HBO hack

24 November, 2017, 01:09 | Author: Greg Santos
  • Iranian hacker Behzad Mesri in an FBI handout

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the US print edition of The Wall Street Journal (November 22, 2017).

U.S. prosecutors have charged an Iranian man they believe to have been behind the hacking into HBO and a $6 million ransom demand.

Nytimes.com reports that Mesri has been charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, extortion and identity theft, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in United States District Court in Manhattan.

A lawyer for Mr. Mesri couldn't immediately be identified.

The US Justice Department has charged a part-time Iranian government hacker with infiltrating HBO and trying to extort the premium broadcaster, a move that comes amid allegations the charges were rushed to bolster President Donald Trump's case against Tehran.

Although Mesri is not in custody, prosecutors made a decision to publicly charge him and put him on the FBI's most-wanted list to send a message to outlaw hackers that U.S. law enforcement has the means to identify, track and get them arrested if they travel to countries where the United States has better relations, acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

Since at least May, Mr. Mesri began monitoring the online activities of HBO employees, looking for vulnerabilities in the company's network, according to prosecutors.

He allegedly downloaded huge amounts of data, including video files of unreleased episodes of Ballers, Barry, Room 104, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce.

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US prosecutors say a member of an Iran-based hacking group tried to extort HBO out of $6 million in digital currency by stealing unaired episodes and scripts of hit shows like "Game of Thrones".

In July, he began sending taunting emails to HBO executives, using "Game of Thrones" imagery and slogans, prosecutors said.

Earlier this year, HBO faced a setback in the form of a massive hacking attack on its internal servers that resulted in the theft of 1.5 terabyte data.

The second e-mail included an image of the "Night King", a Game of Thrones character, with the message "Good luck to HBO".

The alleged hacker broke in to United States broadcaster HBO's computer system and demanded a ransom in Bitcoin.

He then leaked content to the world via websites under his control and a Twitter account.

In a statement Tuesday, HBO said it was working with law enforcement but declined further comment.

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