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HBO Offered Hacker $250000 Bounty Payment in Response to Data Breach
12 August 2017, 11:51 | Elsie Buchanan
Game of Thrones: Hackers leak email indicating HBO has agreed to negotiate and pay $250000
According to the report, the HBO executive wrote that the company had not been able to acquire the amount of Bitcoin, which is almost $6 million, the hackers had demanded.
Additionally, the cable network's message to the hacker asked for an extension of the ransom-payment deadline for one week while the $250,000 payment is made and the necessary amount of bitcoins could be gathered.
In a bid to contain further leaks from a group of hackers, HBO reportedly offered to pay $250,000 to those who stole almost 1.5 TB data, including scripts of "Game of Thrones" (GoT) and other employee information, from the TV network.
"You have the advantage of having surprised us", the message reportedly reads.
The email, dated 27 July, containing the "bug bounty" offer was leaked by the hacker who goes by the name "Little Finger" in a message promising a "second wave". When a reporter in a media conference tried to talk about the ransom video, HBO declined to comment on it.
While the message takes a curiously non-confrontational tone in response to a hacker out to damage HBO, a source close to the investigation who confirmed the veracity of the email explained it was worded that way to stall for time while the company attempted to assess the serious situation. "In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week".
Whether or not HBO ever meant to follow through with its $250,000 offer, the email raised questions Friday among security professionals about the importance of the data and whether HBO's reaction might encourage future attacks.
It is unclear if the HBO email is authentic or if it has been doctored in any way.
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A screengrab from a leaked Game of Thrones episode. There were also internal documents, including a report of legal claims against the network and job offer letters to top executives.
But paying ransoms to hackers can be risky because it shows that being a bad-guy hacker is a good business, said cybersecurity expert Oren Falkowitz, CEO of Redwood City, California-based Area 1 Security.
"The reason they got in this scenario is they didn't have the right pre-emption strategy", Falkowitz said.
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