FBI: Man hacks HBO, holds Game of Thrones spoilers for ransom - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

FBI: Man hacks HBO, holds Game of Thrones spoilers for ransom

Behzad Mesri (Source: FBI) Behzad Mesri (Source: FBI)
(KLTV) -

Federal officers have a message for a man suspected of stealing Game of Thrones spoilers from HBO and holding them for ransom - winter is coming.

Officials are looking for Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national, who is charged with stealing proprietary information from HBO as well as other cyber crimes. Tuesday, the New York District Attorney's office, along with the FBI, released a statement on the case.

Mesri, also known by the hacker pseudonym "Skote Vahshat," is accused of using hacking skills that officials say he learned in the Iranian military to steal Game of Thrones scripts, plot secrets and summaries.

Mesri is accused of scheming to use those secrets to extort $6 million worth of Bitcoin from HBO, by threatening to release Game of Thrones spoilers if they did not comply. He allegedly also threatened to release video files containing unreleased episodes of other television series created by HBO.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim warned Mesri that winter is coming.

 "Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice.

American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated -- not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom.  For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property -- even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away -- eventually, winter will come.”

Some Game of Thrones fans saw some humor in the announcement the FBI posted on their Facebook page about Mesri, including one woman who said, "Thank you Behzad. You make my Sunday great 'cause on Monday I was away and couldn't watch the episode."

Another poster agreed, saying, "Pardon this man! International hero!"

Details of the unsealed indictment explain other alleged actions by Mesri.

The document alleges Mesri was able to steal video files from unaired episodes of “Barry,” “Ballers,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Room 104,” and “The Deuce." The indictment goes on to say he stole scripts and plot summaries for "Game of Thrones," along with cast and crew contact lists, emails belonging to at least one HBO employee, financial documents and online credentials for HBO social media accounts.

Mesri allegedly sent several emails to HBO with threats and demands, the indictment reveals.

  • The email included a threat to release the data publicly unless HBO paid a ransom of $5.5 million worth of Bitcoin.  The email concluded with a custom image depicting the “Night King,” an undead character from “Game of Thrones,” and bearing the message, “Good luck to HBO.”

  • An email on July 26, 2017, that stated, in substance and in part, that the ransom demand had been increased to $6 million worth of Bitcoin, and included additional threats to destroy data on HBO computer servers.

Mesri, 29, a citizen and resident of Iran, is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of computer hacking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison; and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.  

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty, the FBI says.

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