Manhattan prosecutors charge Iranian hacker over Game of Thrones sabotage

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Behzad Mesri, also known online as Skote Vahshat, is an Iran-based computer hacker, the U.S. District Court Southern District of NY stated in an indictment. He has not been taken into custody and the feds are trying to track him down.

Prosecutors said Mesri had worked on behalf of Iran's military to attack military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure.

Mr Mesri, a member of the Iran-supported Turk Black Hat Security team, conducted "hundreds of website defacements" in the U.S. and across the world, prosecutors said.

Mesri is accused of orchestrating a hack of HBO from May to August, then threatening to release stolen data unless the premium cable network paid a United States dollars 6 million ransom in the digital currency Bitcoin.

According to the indictment, Mesri launched a campaign this past May to gain access to the entertainment giant's servers through employee user accounts and got his hands on new episodes of shows, including "Ballers", "Room 104" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm", as well as scripts for "Game of Thrones". No actual Thrones video was ever leaked as part of this particular HBO hack, however.

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He then sent a series of anonymous emails to multiple HBO executives, employees, and other representatives providing proof that he had hacked into their systems, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Law enforcement officials feared the motivation stemmed from the Trump administration's efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran, the paper said.

The cyber attack surfaced over the summer as HBO was running a new season of "Game of Thrones" and as the cable network's parent Time Warner Inc sought regulatory approval to sell itself to AT&T Inc in an $85.4 billion deal announced in October 2016.

Emails, financial balance sheets, employment agreements and marketing strategies, were listed among the 1.5 terabytes of data claimed to have been stolen by the then-unnamed hackers.

At the time, HBO said of the extortion scheme, "That's a game we're not going to participate in".

"In the simplest of terms, he lurked in the alleyways of the Internet, identified the vulnerabilities of his victim, and pickpocketed their information from thousands of miles away", FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney said in a statement.

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