An Iranian hacker has been indicted for stealing information from HBO, including Game of Thrones Season 8 scripts, and trying to extort the network into paying $6 million in Bitcoin, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday.
Accused hacker Behzad Mesri allegedly stole Game of Thrones scripts and summaries, as well as un-aired episodes of Ballers, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce. He then sent taunting images to HBO.
Prosecutors charged Mesri, who went by the alias Skote Vahshat, with computer fraud, wire fraud, extortion and identity theft. Authorities are still trying to locate him.
“Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice,” acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said. “American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom. For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away — eventually, winter will come.”
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According to the indictment, Mesri obtained credentials that HBO employees use to access the network, then used those accounts to steal data from the company's servers from May to August of this year.
Kim described Mesri as an "experienced and sophisticated hacker who has been wreaking havoc on computer systems around the world for some time."
Prosecutors said Mesri had worked on behalf of Iran's military to attack military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure.
They also alleged that he helped an Iranian hacking group, Turk Black Hat Security Team, deface hundreds of websites in the United States and other countries.
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 Inc. sought regulatory approval to sell itself to AT&T Inc. in an $85.4 billion deal announced in October 2016.
Reuters was unable to reach Mesri for comment.
HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson declined to comment on the indictment, and on whether the company's investigation into the breach was complete or how much the incident had cost the cable network.
Reuters contributed to this report.