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Iran-based hacker charged with trying to extort HBO

Iran-based hacker charged with trying to extort HBO

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office has identified Behzad Mesri as the person who hacked into cable network HBO's database, stole plot points and footage, and then threatened to release the data unless he was paid millions.

In a statement last evening, Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a 29-year-old man with offenses carried out against HBO.

Acting United States attorney Joon H. Kim said Mesri, who used the online name Skote Vahshat, "conducted his attack on HBO in a methodical way".

"Some time MESR was a member of the Iranian hacking group called team Turk Black Hat Security".

"He will never be able to travel outside of Iran without fear of being arrested and brought here", Kim said (via the BBC).

A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and should he get caught, Mesri could face up a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison: "up to five years for each of the four charges related to computer fraud; a two-year mandatory sentence for aggravated identity theft; and up to two years in prison for the extortion charge".

Late July it was reported that hackers had stolen proprietary information from media giant HBO. He also gained access to scripts from Ballers and Room 104.

According to the complaint, Mesri's attempt to hack into HBO network began around May and lasted till approximately August of 2017.

In a statement Tuesday, HBO said it is working with law enforcement but declined further comment.

The second e-mail included an image of the "Night King", a Game of Thrones character, with the message "Good luck to HBO".

This past summer, an unidentified someone or someones hacked into HBO, stole tons of data, released episodes of select shows, and demanded HBO pay him a ransom lest he release more.

But there is nothing in the indictment suggesting Mesri targeted HBO on behalf of Iran's government or with its financial support, said Collin Anderson, a USA -based internet researcher who specializes in Iran.


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