HBO Initially Offered Hackers a $250,000 Bug Bounty

By Tom Pritchard on at

The HBO hack is a pretty big deal, mainly because the hackers keep releasing what seem to be the scripts for upcoming episodes of Game of Thrones (among other things). While whoever is behind the breach has been demanding a hefty ransom, a newly leaked email reveals that the broadcaster originally tried to buy them off with a $250,000 bug bounty.

News of the hack, and subsequent data dumps, was initially confirmed by HBO last Monday. This email, obtained by Variety, is dated the 27th July, offering the hackers a $250,000 'bounty payment' "as part of a program in which 'white hat IT professionals' are rewarded for bringing these types of things to our attention."

Bug bounties are not uncommon, particularly in the tech industry, since they encourage benevolent (aka 'white hat') hackers to find and report security holes or exploits in exchange for cash rewards. That way the company can fix the problem before any malevolent individuals try and take advantage of them for whatever reason.

According to sources speaking with Variety, it seems as though the message was likely a way to stall while the broadcaster assessed the situation. The email also implored the hackers to extend their deadline by a single week, in order to secure right amount of Bitcoin. This implies that this was always a ransom situation from the get go, though someone at HBO clearly hoped $250,00 would be enough to avoid major leaks - and avoid ending up like Sony and Netflix.

Apparently the hacker/hackers wanted "six months salary", while claiming to have earned between $12 million and $15 million last year. $250,000 was quite a bit less than that, which HBO no doubt knew at the time.

Variety doesn't appear to have published the email in question, and HBO has reportedly refused to comment on the story. [Variety via The Next Web]

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