U.S. charges Iranian state-sponsored hacker over ‘Game of Thrones’ HBO hack

US Department of Justice charged the Iranian computer expert Behzad Mesri of ‘Games of Thrones’ HBO Hack, he also worked with the Iranian Military.

The United States charged the Iranian computer expert Behzad Mesri of ‘Games of Thrones‘ HBO Hack. On Tuesday, the man was charged with stealing scripts and plot summaries for ‘Games of Thrones’.

The Manhattan US attorney Joon Kim said Mesri is “had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military”. The man threatened to release stolen data, unless HBO paid a $6 million ransom in Bitcoin.

“Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national who had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military, allegedly infiltrated HBO’s systems, stole proprietary data, including scripts and plot summaries for unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, and then sought to extort HBO of $6 million in Bitcoins.” said U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim. “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.  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.”

Behzad Mesri, who is still at large, is an Iran-based hacker who also goes online with the moniker Skote Vahshat.

Mesri faces seven counts in the United States, including wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and four counts of computer fraud.

HBO

The DoJ accused the man of being the mastermind behind the cyber attacks against HBO from May to August, he stole scripts and plot summaries for then unaired episodes of the “Game of Thrones” series, and multiple other shows.

Mersi compromised multiple user accounts belonging to HBO employees and other authorized users, in this way he accessed the company servers and stole confidential and proprietary information.

“Over the course of several months, MESRI used that unauthorized access to steal confidential and proprietary information belonging to HBO, which he then exfiltrated to servers under his control.” states the press release published by the US Department of Justice.

“Through the course of the intrusions into HBO’s systems, MESRI was responsible for stealing confidential and proprietary data belonging to HBO, including, but not limited to: (a) confidential video files containing unaired episodes of original HBO television programs, including episodes of “Barry,” “Ballers,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Room 104,” and “The Deuce;” (b) scripts and plot summaries for unaired programming, including but not limited to episodes of “Game of Thrones;”(c) confidential cast and crew contact lists; (d) emails belonging to at least one HBO employee; (e) financial documents; and (f) online credentials for HBO social media accounts (collectively, the “Stolen Data”).”

According to the US prosecutors, Mesri previously conducted computer attacks on behalf of the Iranian military that targeted nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure.

Prosecutors confirmed that the Iranian man was a member of the Iranian-based Turk Black Hat Security hacking group that targeted hundreds of websites in the United States and around the world.

“MESRI is an Iran-based computer hacker who had previously worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure.” continues the DoJ.

“At certain times, MESRI has been a member of an Iran-based hacking group called the Turk Black Hat security team and, as a member of that group, conducted hundreds of website defacements using the online hacker pseudonym “Skote Vahshat” against websites in the United States and elsewhere.”


Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – HBO hack, Iran)



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