HBO just confirmed that hackers broke into their servers and stole a big amount of data. Now, unreleased episodes of Ballers and Room 104 have appeared online as well a script that looks like next week’s Game of Thrones episode. This is not a drill.
“HBO recently experienced a cyber incident, which resulted in the compromise of proprietary information,” the company said in a statement. “We immediately began investigating the incident and are working with law enforcement and outside cyber-security firms. Data protection is a top priority at HBO, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect the data we hold.”
In all, the hackers claim to have taken 1.5 terabytes of information from HBO, and is hoping that the cache will bring it attention. The group sent an email to reporters offering an interview to anyone who “spread the word” about the cyber attack.
HBO is not commenting on what content might have been stolen, confirming specific titles or the amount of data accessed. This morning, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler sent an email to HBO employees alerting them of the breach.
Email was as under:
“As most of you have probably heard by now, there has been a cyber incident directed at the company which has resulted in some stolen proprietary information, including some of our programming. Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests. The efforts across multiple departments have been nothing short of herculean. It is a textbook example of quintessential HBO teamwork. The problem before us is unfortunately all too familiar in the world we now find ourselves a part of. As has been the case with any challenge we have ever faced, I have absolutely no doubt that we will navigate our way through this successfully.”
On Sunday, an anonymous email was sent to many reporters announcing the hack: “Hi to all mankind. The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!! You are lucky to be the first pioneers to witness and download the leak. Enjoy it & spread the words. Whoever spreads well, we will have an interview with him. HBO is falling.”
It’s not clear if the hackers actually got what would be the crown jewel target for an HBO cyber breach — upcoming episodes of the company’s biggest hit, Game of Thrones. So far, no GoT episode has been leaked.
In April, a hacker penetrated Netflix to release episodes from season 5 of Orange Is the New Black ahead of its summer return. And in May, a hacker claimed to have stolen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but Disney chief Bob Iger later confirmed that the threat was a hoax. The biggest Hollywood hack victim was Sony in 2014, where approximately 100 terabytes of data was stolen and uploaded online (versus the 1.5 TB claimed in the HBO attack).
For years, HBO has fought a cyber-battle to keep Game of Thrones storylines secret and the show’s content from being illegally distributed — particularly before episodes air. In season 5, the first four episodes leaked online before the show’s season premiere after review DVDs that were sent to the press and industry insiders. HBO has since halted the practice of sending any episodes in advance. That same year, some clips leaked ahead of time from overseas HBO distributors, and even images of Jon Snow’s death found their way online before the finale aired. Just a couple weeks ago, a Thrones trailer to be screened at Comic-Con leaked onto YouTube in advance of its release. But those incidents were accidental content leaks. This is the first time the company has been the victim of an actual cyber attack.
Surely, HBO is not happy about the idea that information about new Game of Thrones might be floating around on the internet, since the network is notoriously secretive about plot points. But leaked episodes are small potatoes compared the harm that could be caused if internal emails or employees’ personal information gets leaked. One need look no further than the damage caused by the massive Sony hack in 2014. If the hackers are telling the truth, this new HBO hack is even more massive. The Sony hack was a little under 26 gigabytes, and again, the HBO hackers are claiming to have stolen 1.5 terabytes.
In the meantime companies should work to lock down their systems to avoid such attack. Traditionally that has involved trying to keep people out of companies, but they should now assume people are already in and make sure that information is encrypted and secured as much as it possibly can be.
But however companies work to avoid and fix those attacks, they’re going to continue. What experts call the “attack surface” – the potential ways a hacker can get in – is ever expanding as we rely more and more on computers, and cyber security awareness is not spreading at the same rate.