There may be much more missing than the headlines suggest.
Some 30 million people watched the Season 7 premiere of “Game of Thrones,” according to its creator, HBO. It’s one of the hottest media properties in years.
The popularity of the show, and HBO’s other properties, made HBO the perfect target for attention-hungry hackers who breached HBO’s systems this summer and made off with a script for a future episode and a reported 1.5 terabytes of other information–an astounding amount of data. By comparison, the 2014 Sony hack, which disclosed troves of embarrassing corporate emails and led to the departure of the company’s co-chair, was 200 gigabytes. The HBO breach is roughly seven times larger.
The size of the breach made us question – is this incident more than a spoiler for Game of Thrones and unreleased episodes of several other HBO shows? Or did the hackers have something else in mind? And it points out a sobering fact about many cybersecurity breaches: despite the best forensics, it can be hard to quantify their scope and know the true boundaries of what data has been taken or otherwise compromised.
The question was answered a few days later when the hackers demanded a multi-million dollar ransom to prevent the disclosure of more episodes of more shows and damaging emails and other information – and, to prove their point, released personal phone numbers of Game of Thrones actors, emails and scripts. HBO and the hackers are now in negotiations, with the hackers demanding “our six-month salary in bitcoin”, claiming they earn $12 to $15 million a year from blackmailing organizations whose networks they have breached. Continue reading