Iranian Man Charged in HBO Hack Allegedly Wanted £4.5 Million in Bitcoin to Stop Leaks

By Dell Cameron on at

The US Justice Department on Tuesday charged an Iranian national with hacking into HBO, as well as attempting to extort the television network for $6 million (£4.5 million) worth of bitcoin, according to an indictment filed Tuesday in the US District Court in Manhattan.

Behzad Mesri is described as a “self-professed” computer hacking expert who has worked on behalf of the Iranian military, targeting Israeli infrastructure among other targets. He is identified as being a member of the Turk Black Hat Security team, at times, under the hacker alias “Skote Vahshat,” according to the indictment.

Mesri is accused of planning to breach HBO’s computer systems in May 2017 for the purpose of stealing proprietary data. The indictment alleges Mesri compromised several user accounts and over a period of months exfiltrated confidential information, including video files containing unaired episodes of HBO programs.

Ultimately, the attack resulted in the release of a Game of Thrones script, as well as episodes of HBO shows including Ballers and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Executive emails, confidential cast and crew contact lists, financial documents, and online credentials for HBO’s social media accounts were likewise compromised.

In late July, Mesri is accused of attempting to extort HBO executives, threatening to destroy data on the company’s computer servers, and leaking portions of the stolen data online. There’s no indication HBO paid any of the $6 million.

Mesri has been charged with wire fraud, four counts of computer fraud, interstate transmission of an extortionate communication, and aggravated identity theft.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that national security prosecutors at the Justice Department were facing increased pressure to make public ongoing investigations involving Iranian officials. Law enforcement officials feared the motivation stemmed from the Trump administration’s efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran, the paper said.


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