Iranian National Indicted for $6m HBO Extortion Plot

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An Iranian man who hacked into Israel's military is to face charges in the USA that he also hacked HBO and snatched Game of Thrones scripts before trying to blackmail the TV production company, threatening to release them online if not.

Court documents seen by the BBC state that Mesri began spying on the media giant's computer networks and its employees in May and after a couple of months he successfully broke into a number of user accounts, obtaining unrestricted access to the HBO servers. He is also accused of stealing unaired episodes of Dwayne Johnson's cable TV series Ballers and Larry David's comedy show Curb Your Enthusiasm. "HBO is hacked! Beware of Heart Attacks!".

In recent years, hackers have increasingly used cyber extortion - or stealing corporate secrets and threatening to publicize them if the victims don't pay a ransom - as a way to make money, with Hollywood studios as particularly attractive targets, experts say.

USA prosecutors have charged an Iran-based hacker with penetrating the network of cable TV provider HBO and stealing episodes and plot summaries for unaired programs including "Game of Thrones", and then threatening to release the data unless he was paid $6 million. It's also possible Mesri was acting without the knowledge of Iran's government, he said.

"Mersi allegedly organized his hacking scheme from halfway around the world, in Iran", Kim said.

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"Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice".

He said: "For the rest of his life - and he's a relatively young man in his late 20s - he will never be able to travel outside Iran".

No substantive proof of the link between Iranian officials and Mesri, who has now been added to the FBI's most wanted list, has been offered in the statement.

Chances are, he's not going to leave Iran.

It is believed that more cases involving Iranian hacks will be unsealed in the coming weeks, as part of a push from the White House to force Congress to impose sanctions on Iran.

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