United States charges Iranian hacker for stealing unaired episodes of hit HBO shows

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Announcing the charges, acting Manhattan US attorney Joon Kim said Mesri is "had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military".

Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones

Kim added that Mesri has a history of conducting hacking on behalf of the Iranian military. The indictment, however, is part of a "name and shame" strategy the USA has used in the past to quell interference by foreign hackers it doesn't expect to be turned over.

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Behzad Mesri, an Iran-based hacker, allegedly hacked into HBO servers in May, stole confidential company data over the course of several months, and then attempted to extort HBO for $6 million in Bitcoin, according to the indictment released by USA prosecutors in Manhattan Tuesday morning.

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On Tuesday, federal authorities in NY indicted Behzad Mesri, an Iranian citizen, accusing him of hacking HBO earlier this year.

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Prosecutors are expected to release more information at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. He also stole scripts for the hit series "Game of Thrones", contact information for HBO series' cast and crew, corporate financial documents and login credentials for HBO's social media accounts. Kim said that Mesri sent emails to HBO threatening to release and/or destroy the data if they didn't pay. Later, he allegedly posted a screenshot of the HBO logo online, with the words, "Winter is coming". Things then went from bad to worse throughout the course of the eight-episode run including leaked Game of Thrones scripts and the biggest episode of the season, 'Beyond the Wall', when Jon and his party ventured past the Wall to capture a white walker. He also compromised e-mail accounts for various HBO employees. However, as Engadget points out, while this is a win for HBO legally, since the hacker does not reside in the USA, he has not yet been arrested. Just a year ago, he noted, the federal government charged seven Iranians with carrying out a cyber attack on dozens of United States banks on behalf of the Iranian government. Kim said: "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".