Friday, 15 December, 2017

US Charges Iranian Over 'Game of Thrones' Hack

Iranian hacker Behzad Mesri in an FBI handout Iranian hacker Behzad Mesri in an FBI handout
Juana Turner | 23 November, 2017, 00:21

Acting United States attorney Joon H. Kim said Mesri, who used the online name Skote Vahshat, "conducted his attack on HBO in a methodical way".

He was also, at times, part of the Turk Black Hat security team, which did website defacement against the U.S. and elsewhere.

The indictment described Mesri as a "self-professed expert" in hacking who had worked on behalf of Iran's military to attack military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure.

The U.S. has neither formal diplomatic relations nor an extradition treaty with Iran, meaning the U.S. can't request Mesri's extradition.

But there lies the problem, Mesri is resident in Iran, and though Kim warned of consequences it seems unlikely that U.S. authorities would be able to arrest him unless he left. If convicted, Variety reports, Mesri faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud; up to five years for each of the four charges related to computer fraud; a two-year mandatory sentence for aggravated identity theft; and up to two years in prison for the extortion charge.

The haul was said to include confidential details of the then-unreleased fourth episode of the latest Game of Thrones season, plus episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104.

He also stole financial documents, credentials for HBO's social-media accounts and the emails of at least one HBO employee, the indictment said.

Mesri then supposedly stole 1.5TB of data and began blackmailing the network, demanding $6m in exchange for not leaking new episodes and scripts to the public.

A spokesman with the U.S. Attorney's Office said that Mesri has not been arrested, but declined to comment on the suspect's whereabouts. Included was an image of "Game of Thrones" Night King character, leader of an army of zombies, with the words, "Good luck HBO".

US federal prosecutors allege that Mesri leaked some of the stolen data on the Internet.

US prosecutors say Behzad Mesri previously worked for Iran's military, hacking into the IDF and Israel's critical infrastructure, before trying to blackmail the studio for $6 million worth of crypto-currency Bitcoin.

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