HBO Hack Results in Criminal Charges Against Iranian Man

Prosecutors say Behzad Mesri stole unreleased episodes of popular television shows and then sought to extort HBO.

Declaring that winter has come, federal prosecutors have charged Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national, for a hacking upon HBO that led to the premature release of Game of Throne scripts, episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as internal executive emails. The U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York is bringing the case that includes the allegation that that Mesri participated in a scheme to extort HBO of $6 million in bitcoins.

The perpetrators of the hack announced their presence in early August after breaking into HBO's computer network and stealing proprietary information. Although the incident never incurred the same extent of damage as the 2014 Sony Pictures hack, the slow drip of leaked information caused a scramble at HBO's headquarters, the intervention of the FBI, and warnings to employees that their sensitive personal information could be exposed.

Ultimately, after negotiations over ransom demands and after the hackers went public with what they had obtained, hackers released material including unaired episodes of Ballers and Room 104. In August, HBO's official Twitter account was also the victim of a hack from a group calling itself OurMine, purporting to test the Time Warner subsidiary's security.

According to the indictment, the 29-year-old Mesri was known as "Skote Vahshat." Prosecutors also say he previously worked on behalf of the Iranian military and conducted computer network attacks against Israeli infrastructure. He allegedly was part of a Iran-based hacking group called the Turk Black Hat security team.

HBO was compromised between May and July, continues the indictment, with unauthorized access accomplished through multiple user accounts belonging to HBO employees.

Mesri is charged with one count of wire fraud, one count of computer hacking, one count of aggravated identity theft, three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information, and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication. He faces decades in prison.

But first, Mesri will have to be apprehended or extradited. He has now been put on the FBI's most wanted list.

 

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