Iranian National Indicted for $6m HBO Extortion Plot

Posted November 24, 2017

On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice announced that Behzad Mesri, 29, also known as Skote Vahshat, is the accused of hacking HBO's networks and stealing data.

The indictment, unsealed in NY on Tuesday, said that Behzad Mesri, "had worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure".

"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.

While Game of Thrones was still airing, the hacker threatened to released unaired episodes of the fantasy series - as well as financial info - should they not pay him.

Back in May, he began reconnaissance work on HBO, looking for restricted parts of the corporate network, before compromising multiple user accounts to obtain unauthorized access to the TV network's servers.

Mr. Kim said the government decided this was the right time to publicize charges against Mr. Mesri, after assessing whether there was a realistic chance of luring him outside of Iran to make an arrest.

Court papers accuse Mr Mesri of threatening HBO and demanding to be paid "a "non-negotiable" ransom" - approximately $6m (£4.5m) worth of Bitcoin. "HBO is hacked!. Beware of heart Attack!"

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The theft consisted of terabytes of information, which wasn't limited to scripts and unaired episodes.

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

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

Rather than keep quiet, prosecutors say Mesri "undertook efforts to promote the leaks", actively seeking journalists to publicise the story.

Earlier this year, HBO was the victim of a hacking incident.

The hack and its fallout has been a headache as HBO's parent company, Time Warner, tries to complete its sale to AT&T Inc.