US prosecutors charge Iranian in HBO ′Game of Thrones′ hack | News | DW | 22.11.2017
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US prosecutors charge Iranian in HBO 'Game of Thrones' hack

US prosecutors have charged an Iranian man with hacking into HBO and attempting to blackmail the cable TV network with stolen episodes and plot summaries for unaired programs, including "Game of Thrones."

An indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday accused 29-year old Behzad Mesri of hacking into HBO's computer system in New York in July.

Acting US Attorney Joon Kim told a news conference that US prosecutors had publicly charged Mesri with computer fraud, wire fraud, extortion and identity theft and also put him on the FBI's most-wanted list as a deterrent to others.

Kim added that Mesri was in Iran and would "face consequences," even though US authorities could not immediately arrest him. "He will never be able to travel outside of Iran without fear of being arrested and brought here," Kim said. 

"American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom." 

One of Mesri's threats was to release plotlines and scripts for the fantasy series "Game of Thrones," which has brought in record viewership for HBO. 

$6 million ransom

According to the indictment, Mesri is alleged to have stolen unaired episodes from shows including "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "The Deuce," and plot summaries and scripts for "Game of Thrones."

The 29-year old is said to have demanded up to $6 million (€5.1 million) in emails sent to HBO staff to keep the data secret. Some of the emails ended with photos of the Night King, a zombie villain from "Game of Thrones," according to the indictment.

HBO refused to pay the ransom, and Mesri is said to have begun leaking parts of the stolen material on his websites.

US authorities said Mesri sometimes worked with a hacker group in Iran called Turk Black Hat Security, and also with the Iranian military to conduct cyberattacks targeting military and nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure.

jbh/cmk (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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