HBO hackers release more Game of Thrones data, this time with a ransom note

Just a week after hackers released scripts and entire episodes stolen from HBO, the same group has issued a ransom note along with its latest data dump.

The latest leak includes scripts for the first four episodes of Game of Thrones season seven as well as the script of the upcoming fifth episode, all watermarked with "HBO is Falling". This leak additionally features internal memos, emails, accounts, and contracts, plus the extortion note.

The hacker or hackers, posting under the name Mr Smith, sent the ultimatum in the form of a video soundtracked by the Game of Thrones theme tune to HBO CEO Richard Plepler, demanding money for the safe return of the data.

"Our demand is clear and Non-Negotiable. HBO spends 12 million for Market Research and 5 million for GOT7 advertisements. So consider us another budget for your advertisements!," the video explains. It then sets a deadline for three days from the date of publication.

In an initial statement sent last week to Entertainment Weekly, HBO confirmed the breach, saying it had "recently experienced a cyber incident, which resulted in the compromise of proprietary information", and that the network was working with law enforcement and outside cybersecurity firms to investigate the breach. "Data protection is a top priority at HBO, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect the data we hold," the statement continued.

In total, it is now believed more than 3TB of data was taken but the method of the attack is not yet known. It came to light when an anonymous email was sent to reporters, which read: "The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What's its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones......!!!!!! Enjoy it & spread the words. Whoever spreads well, we will have an interview with him. HBO is falling."

HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler is said to have emailed staff hours later, saying: "The problem before us is unfortunately all too familiar in the world we now find ourselves a part of. As has been the case with any challenge we have ever faced, I have absolutely no doubt that we will navigate our way through this successfully."

After an initial data dump including Game of Thrones scripts, hackers released episodes three and four of the show last week, alongside personal data belonging to a senior HBO exec and other employees' details.

Picture: Bigstock

Freelance writer

Vaughn Highfield is a seasoned freelance writer with more than 10 years experience in content strategy and technology journalism.  

Vaughn is a self-described ‘wordsmith and UX wizard’, covering topics spanning cyber security, cryptocurrency, financial technology, and skills development. 

From 2015 to 2018, he served as a senior staff writer at Alphr before assuming the role of associate editor. In his role as associate editor, Vaughn was responsible for a range of duties, including the publication’s long-term content strategy, events coverage, editorial commissions, and curation of the Alphr newsletter. 

Prior to this, Vaughn held in-house roles at PCPro and Terrapinn Digital in addition to freelance marketing and content strategy activities with The Gamers Hub and Magdala Media.