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“There’s always more.”
That was the chilling response TheDarkOverlord gave to The Hollywood Reporter when asked if the hacking collective planned to leak additional Hollywood content in the wake of Monday’s release of eight unaired episodes of ABC’s Funderdome.
“Hollywood is under attack, and we’re at the forefront of this most recent offensive,” wrote the pseudonymous hacking collective to THR. “We’re not in the business to scare anyone. We’re in the business of earning vast amounts of internet money.”
But even more alarming, TheDarkOverlord also claims to have studio movies in addition to the unaired series and films from such networks as IFC and National Geographic that have been been previously reported. Though Netflix and Disney/ABC balked at paying ransom demands, others quietly have paid up, according to knowledgeable sources.
“Make no mistake, Hollywood is under assault,” the hacking collective wrote to THR.
The leak of the Steve Harvey-hosted game show marked the second time in the span of five weeks that TheDarkOverlord has struck, leaving Hollywood on edge. On April 28, the group uploaded 10 episodes of the upcoming season of Orange Is the New Black to The Pirate Bay. The fifth season of the Netflix series isn’t officially set to begin streaming until Friday.
“There’s not much interest in Funderdome on pirate sites probably because it’s not widely known to the public yet,” says Ernesto van der Sar of Torrent Freak, which also monitors file-sharing and piracy.
One cybersecurity source who declined to be named suggested that ABC is paying the price for recent comments made by Bob Iger, CEO of parent company Disney, who publicly stated, “To our knowledge we were not hacked. We had a threat of a hack of a movie being stolen.”
The movie in question was widely reported to be Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The source, who called Iger’s comments “a misstep that put a target on Disney’s back,” says the file stolen contained partial footage of Pirates 5 but was deemed not valuable enough to pay a ransom. Though TheDarkOverlord was not the group behind the Disney extortion plot, the hacker community is tightly knit and an affront to one is an affront to all, says the source.
During its breach of postproduction facility Larson Studios in late 2016, TheDarkOverlord lifted properties far more valuable than Funderdome, including CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles and Fox’s New Girl.
“Hackers are playing reality games of the worst kind — causing real damage after making real threats,” says Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor of online crime in Los Angeles and onetime chief security officer for News Corp. “These leaks can directly limit how many viewers will actually watch because the leak spoils the ending.”
But for those viewing pirated goods, nothing comes free. Nigam says hackers often put ransomware into leaked pirated content in an effort to attack the fan base.
“Hackers have paired up with pirates to inject anyone searching or downloading leaked content with malware of all kinds to steal info, spy on you or destroy your computer with ransomware,” says Nigam.
As for a studio that opts to meet the demands, the FBI says that doesn’t always guarantee that the stolen goods will be returned. An agency spokesperson says: “In many cases, hackers do not restore files even after a ransom is paid.”
TheDarkOverlord denies that it has ever modified its leaked content to be malicious and says it always returns files once an agreed-upon payment is made. “We’re a professional operation,” the group says.
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