Massive HBO hack saw criminals make inroads into Westeros
In a massive breach of its servers, in which hackers pilfered everything from full episodes of unreleased shows to sensitive internal documents. Since the initial HBO hack, in separate and distinct incidents, two episodes of Game of Thrones leaked out early. And Thursday, hacker group OurMine hijacked HBO’s main Twitter account, along with those of several HBO shows.
The HBO hack was a massive cyberattack, which the thieves claimed took six months of planning. Information slowly started to trickle out last month as the hackers threatened to release unaired episodes of “Game of Thrones,” “Ballers” and “Barry,” as well as documents with financial records and internal operations.
Hacks against media companies are becoming the latest trend for cybercriminals, who are lured by their weak security and massive payouts. The hackers see value in popular TV shows and the measures that media companies will take to prevent them from being spoiled for legions of fans. HBO’s hackers pointed out that “Game of Thrones” spent $5 million for advertising, and wanted a cut.
HBO declined to comment beyond the statement it released on Monday, in which the company said it had no “reason to believe that our e-mail system as a whole has been compromised.”
If the contacts document is altered, it calls into question the other 1.5 terabytes of data the hackers claim to have. They’ve released scripts and episodes to show HBO that it’s a legitimate threat, but the doctored file could mean even more documents are forged.
But HBO’s rocky patch of hacks and leaks also serves as an important reminder of just how hard it is for any company to lock things down these days. While the attacks blur together, they’re in fact four distinct incidents, each with their own set of lessons.
“They have some supply chain issues, they have malicious insiders, they had accidental insiders, they have an account compromised,” says Richard Ford, chief scientist at security software company Forcepoint. “It crosses a range of issues that highlight the challenges that a big organization like HBO faces.”
Focusing on the variety of threats out there doesn’t just provide some much-needed clarity around HBO’s current dilemma—it may help other companies prevent a similar mess down the road.