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Hackers hit HBO, demand millions for data

A group of hackers has published a fresh trove of data stolen from the US cable network HBO. The data dump includes the script for an upcoming "Game of Thrones" episode, as well as a ransom demand for remaining files.

The attackers directed their demands at the head of HBO, Richard Plepler, giving him a deadline of three days to pay the ransom or risk further leaks. In the video published under the name of "Mr. Smith," on Monday, the group threatened to upload entire series and confidential company files included in the 1.4 terabytes of data they allegedly stole from the network.

The hackers censored the specific sum in the published video, but also said they demanded "our 6-month salary in bitcoin," and claimed they earn $12 million to $15 million a year cyber-attacks and blackmail. The hackers say it took them half a year to penetrate HBO's network.

Last Monday, HBO acknowledged some of its files had been stolen, but declined to comment on the details. After the latest leak, the company said it was still investigating the problem and cooperating with police and cybersecurity experts.

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'Game of Thrones' a favorite for pirates

The data include a script for the upcoming fifth episode of the seventh season of "Game of Thrones," plus what appears to be a contact list for some of the show's stars. It shows a screenshot of folders allegedly containing episodes of several other shows, including dark comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, and a comedy-drama Insecure. Other files reportedly include job offer letters and net-administrator passwords.

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HBO has long struggled to keep plot lines of its shows secret, with various hackers repeatedly targeting "Game of Thrones," the epic fantasy series with massive worldwide following. In 2015, the first four episodes of the show's fifth season leaked online ahead of broadcast, and a low-quality version of this Sunday's episode was also published prematurely last week. Additionally, "Game of Thrones" has been the most pirated TV show worldwide for at least five years.

dj/msh (AP, dpa)

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