After having suffered four separate security breaches involving their hit television series Game of Thrones, it would seem that winter is coming for HBO. Will they bend the knee and tighten down on security or will they remain vulnerable to future leaks?
The first of these breaches took place back at the end of June, 2017. A hacker calling himself “Mr. Smith” was able to gain access to a directory on HBO servers that included two unaired episodes of not only Game of Thrones but also unaired episodes and other confidential scripts and records related to Curb Your Enthusiasm and Westworld. A week after hacking into HBO servers, Mr. Smith penned a ransom letter to the company demanding they fork over millions of dollars for the leaks to stop.
HBO attempted to negotiate with the hacker by offering a $250,000 “bug bounty.” Four days after the “bug bounty” story went public, HBO came clean and admitted that the hackers had been holding them for ransom.
As Mr. Smith’s attack had HBO executives scrambling to track down the person or group responsible for the hack, a second leak occurred. This time, the leak wasn’t the work of hackers but a group of affiliated employees.
Four men working for Prime Focus Technologies that works with India’s cable network OneStar to provide HBO programming to the country allegedly smuggled out a full episode of the show, set to be aired two days later.
Then in August, HBO managed to leak themselves when HBO Nordic and HBO Espana aired a Game of Thrones episode set to be aired the following Sunday. HBO cited third-party vendors at fault for the mix-up, but it was already too late. Torrents were made and the episode leaked to other audiences eager to catch an early glimpse at the latest episode.
HBO’s woes were far from over. Most recently it’s been reported that a “white-hat” hacking group took over Twitter accounts connected to the premium cable network, including Game of Thrones. On each account a simple message was left stating:
The messages were removed a short while later, with HBO appearing to regain access to their accounts.
Many are now asking how this series of serious security problems are impacting the company. While it would seem that HBO just can’t catch a break, ratings for Game of Thrones are soaring. According to an article published by Deadline, the series is reaching record highs of over 10.2 million viewers over the last two weeks.
These hacks have since proven how many cogs are operating within a digital media company where, without proper security in place, any point within that chain of command can cause a leak or act as a gateway for hackers. With HBO not in direct control of third-party affiliates it’s important they have proper procedures in place to ensure they are entrusting their property in good hands and work with closely with cyber security specialists to ensure that their servers and other controlled accounts are locked down and safe from malicious hackers.