US prosecutors have charged an Iranian national with hacking into cable TV network HBO’s servers and stealing episodes and plot summaries for unaired programs of hit shows including “Game of Thrones” and threatening to release the data unless he was paid $6 million, Joon H Kim, acting US attorney, southern district of New York, announced on Tuesday.
Behzad Mesri (29), also known as “Skote Vahshat,” was charged with the hack in a sealed indictment that was released on Tuesday by the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan. It says he stole unaired episodes from shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce, story plot summaries and scripts for Game of Thrones and confidential cast and crew contact lists. The indictment described Mesri as a “self-professed expert” in hacking who had worked on behalf of Iran‘s military to attack military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure.
Mesri earlier this year infiltrated computer accounts of HBO employees authorized to remotely access the network’s servers, the indictment says. In July, he emailed HBO executives in New York providing evidence of the hack and demanding $5.5 million in digital currency, a figure later raised to $6 million, it says. Included was an image of Game of Thrones Night King character, leader of an army of zombies, with the words, “Winter is coming. HBO is falling. Good luck HBO.”
It also alleged that he helped an Iranian hacking group, Turk Black Hat Security Team, deface hundreds of websites in the United States and other countries.
Now Kim told reporters, “Winter is coming for Behzad Mesri.” Hackers may think they’re safe behind a screen name, but even for them, winter will come, Kim said.
A spokesman with the Attorney’s office said Mesri has not been arrested.
Mesri is in Iran but if he leaves he could be arrested.