U.S. Officials to Charge Iranian Hacker in HBO Server Attack and Data Theft

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York plans to announce charges Tuesday against an Iranian national who allegedly hacked HBO’s servers and attempted to extort the premium cable programmer.

According to a press advisory, federal authorities will charge that Behzad Mesri, a citizen of Iran, broke into HBO computers and stole data — including unaired episodes of “Game of Thrones” — and then threatened to release the info unless HBO paid an undisclosed sum. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York has scheduled a 12:30 p.m. ET press conference to detail the charges.

HBO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In July, HBO confirmed that its computer systems had been breached, resulting in what it said was “the compromise of proprietary information.” The hacker, who called himself “Mr. Smith” in some communiques, reportedly made off with a trove of 1.5 terabytes of data and demanded millions in ransom payments from HBO in Bitcoin.

The hacker released of a “Game of Thrones” script and episodes of HBO shows including “Ballers” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” HBO offered a $250,000 payoff to the hacker as a so-called “bug bounty,” but that move was in fact was a stall tactic by HBO as it assessed the situation.

Separately, in August, police in India arrested four people — who were employees of a vendor working with HBO distribution partner Sky India — in connection with the theft of a “Game of Thrones” season 7 episode earlier this month that was leaked to piracy sites ahead of its premiere on HBO.

Also in August, HBO’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were hijacked by notorious hacker collective OurMine.