With the Game of Thrones TV series being one of the most watched on the planet, HBO executives are desperately trying to prevent the leak of a series of scripts for future episodes obtained recently by hackers.
Last week news of the breach emerged after a hacker group calling itself ‘Mr Smith’ said it had taken as much as 1.5TB of data from HBO’s servers – including the scripts – in an attempt to blackmail it into paying it a ransom in bitcoin.
Now, according to Variety, a leaked email from a HBO executive appears to show that it is willing to give in to the group’s demand with a “bounty payment” of $ 250,000 in the cryptocurrency often used by cybercriminals for its anonymity.
Rather than spinning it as a major breach, the email said that the ransom is part of the company’s programme for rewarding “white hat IT professionals” for their efforts to bringing flaws in its system to attention.
Stalling for time
A source within the investigation told Variety that the peculiar wording of the email was deliberate in an attempt to stall for time as HBO comes to terms with what they are dealing with here.
While well below the millions of dollars demanded by Mr Smith, HBO hopes that the $ 250,000 might be enough to appease them and call off the blackmail.
“You have the advantage of having surprised us,” the email said. “In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week.”
While fighting this battle, HBO is also attempting to limit the damage caused by pirating with each passing season resulting in another record breaking number of people watching the show illegally.
After the recent premiere of season seven, reports emerged that while officially the first episode was viewed by 13m people, as many as 90m people watched it through pirated content.
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