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24 November 2017, 01:06 | Conrad Doyle
Iranian Behzad Mesri charged in HBO and 'Game of Thrones' hack
According to an indictment that was unsealed in a Manhattan U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Mesri was charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, extortion and identity theft. He also stands accused of being an occasional member of the hacking collective "Turk Black Hat Security".
After pilfering info from the cable giant over summer 2017, Mesri tried to extort $6 million in Bitcoin from the company, according to prosecutors.
On Tuesday, federal authorities in NY indictedBehzad Mesri, an Iranian citizen, accusing him of hacking HBO earlier this year. The decision to indict him is part of a "name and shame" strategy the US government has used in the past to try to curb the work of foreign hackers it doesn't expect to apprehend.
Mesri, who uses the online handle Skote Vahshat, said he would release the material and destroy data unless he was paid $5.5 million in Bitcoin currency, the indictment charges. At one point, prosecutors said, Mr Mesri bragged he had stolen 1.5 terabytes of data. The indictment did not say whether Mesri was working on behalf of the Iranian government when he hacked HBO.
In what Acting US Attorney Joon Kim called a "flair for the dramatic", Mr Mesri allegedly included doctored images of Game of Thrones characters, such as the Night King, in his emails. He also compromised e-mail accounts for various HBO employees.
Indicting foreign government hackers is often viewed more as a tool of deterrence and diplomacy than an attempt to bring the digital assailants to justice, since their governments will never extradite them to face charges.
The individual responsible for hacking HBO and leaking unaired episodes and scripts of Game of Thrones has been identified and charged. During the Obama administration, the US charged five Chinese military officers for hacking American corporations to steal trade secrets and seven Iranian men for crippling bank websites with barrages of traffic, as well as infiltrating an upstate NY dam.
Phrases like "HB-Old is Dying...." and "HBO is Falling" can be clearly seen in the screengrab (the site was back to normal within an hour of the original hack).
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