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24 November 2017, 01:10 | Jermaine Blake
Former Iranian military hacker behind Game of Thrones leaks – Report
United States prosecutors have charged an Iran-based hacker with penetrating the network of cable TV provider HBO and stealing episodes and plot summaries for unaired programs including "Game of Thrones", and then threatening to release the data unless he was paid $6 million.
If convicted, Mesri faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud, plus up to five years each for four charges related to computer fraud, among other sentences.
He allegedly downloaded huge amounts of data, including video files of unreleased episodes of Ballers, Barry, Room 104, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce.
This Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced that they have opened the case against Behzad Mesri, whose aliases include Skote Vahshat and Mr. Smith.
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.
U.S. federal authorities have charged a man alleged to have been involved in stealing unaired HBO shows and scripts for Game of Thrones. "HBO is hacked!" an email allegedly originating from Mesri read.
In a statement Tuesday, HBOsaid it was working with law enforcement but declined further comment.
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The second e-mail included an image of the "Night King", a Game of Thrones character, with the message "Good luck to HBO".
In the coming days, emails from the anonymous hacker to HBO personnel raised the ransom to approximately $6 million worth of bitcoin, threatened to destroy data on HBO's servers and provided a deadline of July 29 for HBO to begin making ransom payments if it wanted to prevent the public disclosure of stolen data.
He later upped the asking price to $6 million.
"Today's charges make clear that nation-states, like Iran, routinely employ alleged criminals, mercenaries, like Mesri, to conduct network attacks in America and elsewhere", Kim said.
The cyber attack surfaced over the summer as HBO was running a new season of "Game of Thrones", and as the cable network's parent Time Warner sought regulatory approval to sell itself to AT&T.
Kim denied that the timing of the charges against Mesri was part of a coordinated Justice Department effort to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers to stiffen sanctions against Iran.
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