Iran-based hacker charged with trying to extort HBO

Posted: Updated:

By TOM HAYS
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - An Iran-based hacker plotted to extort HBO out of $6 million by threatening to release stolen episodes and scripts of hit shows, such as "Game of Thrones," at one point taunting the network with a twist on a catch phrase form that series: "Winter is coming. HBO is falling."

An indictment filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan accuses Behzad Mesri of hacking into the cable network's computer system in New York. It says he stole unaired episodes from shows including "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "The Deuce," story plot summaries and scripts for "Game of Thrones" and confidential cast and crew contact lists.

After HBO apparently refused to pay, Mesri began leaking portions of the stolen material on websites he controlled, the indictment says. One of the leaks was an unaired episode of a new HBO comedy called "Barry" on which he superimposed an opening credit showing the Night King and the "HBO is falling" threat, according to the indictment.

U.S. authorities described Mesri as a computer whiz who sometimes works with a hacker group in Iran called Turk Black Hat Security. He also has teamed the Iranian military to conduct cyberattacks targeting military and nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure, they said.

Although Mesri is not in custody, prosecutors decided to publicly charge him and put him on the FBI's most-wanted list to send a message to outlaw hackers that U.S. law enforcement has the means to identify, track and get them arrested if they travel to countries where the United States has better relations, acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

"Today, winter has come for Behzad Mesri," Kim said. "He will forever be looking over his shoulder. And if he isn't, he should be."

In a statement Tuesday, HBO said it is working with law enforcement but declined further comment.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 5 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login, create an account or subscribe to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."