Last week, HBO was victim of a massive cyberattack where hackers had claimed to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of data. Soon, the leaks followed and unaired episodes of Ballers, Room 104 & Barry made their way online. The hackers also leaked confidential information including email conversations and phone numbers of Game of Thrones stars like Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke & Lena Headey as well as the scripts of episode 4 & 5 of season 7, before the scheduled airing of the episodes. They also demanded $6 million in bitcoin as a ransom for stopping the leaks. Now, the hackers have leaked a message from HBO where a network executive had offered them $250,000, as part of a ‘bounty payment’ program in which people are rewarded for finding loopholes in a security system, in exchange for hackers to stop the leaks, reports Variety:
Variety has obtained a copy of another message released Thursday by the anonymous hacker to select journalists in which HBO is apparently responding to the initial video letter that was sent informing the Time Warner-owned company of the massive data breach. The message from HBO, dated July 27, features the network’s offer to make a “bounty payment” of $250,000 as part of a program in which “white hat IT professionals” are rewarded for “bringing these types of things to our attention.”
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. It also opened the possibility that a $250,000 payment would be enough to appease the hacker and avert the kind of leak that impacted other companies, from Sony to Netflix.
The message also implores the hacker to extend a ransom-payment deadline for one week while the $250,000 payment is made and the necessary amount of bitcoin can be secured. “You have the advantage of having surprised us,” the message reads. “In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week.”
The $250,000 sum is also well short of the “six months salary” request made in the video letter by the hacker, who claims to make $12 million to $15 million per year.
HBO declined to comment.