'Game of Thrones' Leak Leads to Four Arrests in India

Courtesy of HBO
'Game of Thrones'

The men appear to have been insiders at a third-party vendor that works on the series and not hackers.

Four men have been arrested over the leak that led to the release of Aug. 6 episode of Game of Thrones three days before its premiere.

The breach, which is unrelated to a major hack that HBO has been dealing with for weeks, was initially pegged to HBO's India distribution partner Star India shortly after the fourth episode of season seven hit torrent sites on the morning of Aug. 3.

"We have just learnt from law enforcement agencies about the significant progress made by them into the investigation of the breach ... including the arrest of ​four​ individuals associated with our technology vendor, Prime Focus Technologies," Star India and Novi Digital said Monday in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "This is the first time in the history of Star India that an incident of this nature has occurred. We are deeply grateful to the police for their swift and prompt action. We believe that valuable intellectual property is a critical part of the development of the creative industry and strict enforcement of the law is essential to protecting it."

The breach came as HBO has tried to contain the fallout of anonymous hackers who say they've stolen 1.5 terabytes of data from the pay cable network — a mix of video content, Game of Thrones scripts and emails. So far, those hackers, who go by the name "Mr. Smith" and sign their electronic correspondences with the phrase "HBO is falling," have released unaired episodes from such network series as Ballers, Room 104 and, most recently, the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is set to launch in October.

While that case continues to drag on with no end in sight and instead offers a slow rollout of leaked proprietary HBO data, the India case moved quickly, with the arrests made 11 days after the episode was leaked. The four men appear to have been insiders at a third-party vendor that works on the series and not hackers.

According to a statement made on behalf of Special IGP and given to THR, the electronic trail and other technical material pointed to Prime Focus Technologies — the agency contracted by Star India to manage the data — as being responsible for the illegal leak of the episode: "At this stage, Prime Focus Technologies came forward and accepting that the leakage had happened at its end, lodged a complaint against one of its serving employees and alleging that he, along with another former employee and other persons, unauthorizedly gained access to the episode and thereafter illegally leaked the same for viewing by the general public over the internet."

The police swooped in on the Bangalore office of Prime Focus and interrogated employees throughout the night on Friday.

"The investigation revealed complicity and involvement of more persons than those specifically named in the [complaint], particularly the ones working in the office and otherwise lawfully having access to the raw data of the series," the Special IGP statement continued. "The information and material collected at the Bangalore office and the Mumbai Police station was collated, studied and analyzed by the police. On being satisfied that the material collected by the investigating agency sufficiently established the role and involvement of various persons, [the four arrests were made]."

The four men will remain in custody for seven days, while the police continue with their investigation. The Hindustan Times reported that Mohamad Suhail, a former employee, leaked the low-quality video of the episode on the internet after receiving it from the other three men accused of pilfering it.