HBO gathering $250,000 in bitcoin to pay Game of Thrones script ransom

11 Aug 2017

HBO sign. Image: Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

It seems that HBO is giving in to hackers’ demands as an email suggests it is planning to pay a $250,000 ransom to prevent Game of Thrones scripts from leaking.

With the Game of Thrones TV series being one of the most watched on the planet, HBO executives are desperately trying to prevent the leak of scripts for future episodes, which were recently obtained by hackers.

Last week, news of the breach emerged after a hacker group calling itself ‘Mr Smith’ said it had taken as much as 1.5TB of data from HBO’s servers – including the scripts – in an attempt to blackmail it into paying a ransom in bitcoin, the cryptocurrency often used by cybercriminals for its anonymity.

Now, according to Variety, a leaked email from a HBO executive appears to suggest that the network is willing to give in to the group’s demands, with a ‘bounty payment’ of $250,000.

Rather than spinning it as a major breach, the email said that the ransom is part of HBO’s programme for rewarding “white-hat IT professionals” for their efforts to bringing flaws in its system to attention.

Stalling for time

A source within the investigation told Variety that the peculiar wording of the email was deliberate in an attempt to stall for time as HBO comes to terms with what it is dealing with.

While the figure is well below the millions of dollars demanded by Mr Smith, HBO hopes that $250,000 might be enough to appease them and call off the blackmail.

“You have the advantage of having surprised us,” the email said. “In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week.”

While fighting this battle, HBO is also attempting to limit the damage caused by pirating with each passing season, resulting in record-breaking numbers of people watching the show illegally.

After the recent premiere of season seven, reports emerged that while the first episode was officially viewed by 13m people, it was reportedly pirated a whopping 90m times.

HBO sign. Image: Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic