Iranian Behzad Mesri charged in HBO and 'Game of Thrones' hack

Iranian Behzad Mesri charged in HBO and 'Game of Thrones' hack

In the indictment, Mesri has been charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, extortion and identity theft, among other charges. The indictment, however, is part of a "name and shame" strategy the US has used in the past to quell interference by foreign hackers it doesn't expect to be turned over.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the hacker as Behzad Mesri, a hacker who allegedly worked with the Turk Black Hat Security team, a group with ties to the Iranian military.

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He breached several user accounts in the network and stole data from servers, later asking for a ransom worth a total of $6 million in Bitcoin.

The cyber attack surfaced over the summer as HBO was running a new season of Game of Thrones, and as the cable network's parent Time Warner Inc sought regulatory approval to sell itself to AT&T Inc in an $112.65 billion deal announced in October 2016. And officials have conceded that it would be hard to arrest him and take him into custody. At one point, prosecutors said, Mr Mesri bragged he had stolen 1.5 terabytes of data.

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In what Acting US Attorney Joon Kim called a "flair for the dramatic", Mr Mesri allegedly included doctored images of Game of Thrones characters, such as the Night King, in his emails. Kim said that Mesri sent emails to HBO threatening to release and/or destroy the data if they didn't pay. He also compromised e-mail accounts for various HBO employees.

"He will never be able to travel outside of Iran without fear of being arrested and brought here to face these charges", Kim said. As he continued to push for that payment, he leaked out stolen materials, including a script for an unaired Game of Thrones episode, in addition to unaired episodes of Ballers, Barry, Room 104, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce. During the Obama administration, the USA charged five Chinese military officers for hacking American corporations to steal trade secrets and seven Iranian men for crippling bank websites with barrages of traffic, as well as infiltrating an upstate NY dam.

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In response to today's announcement, HBO released the following statement.

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