The data dump will be delayed “because of some new buyers,” said an email to The Hollywood Reporter purported to be from the hackers. “Some of HBO’s top competitors are negotiating with us.”
The hacker or hackers behind the recent HBO breach did not carry through with a threat to release leaked material Sunday.
In an email purported to be from the hackers behind the breach that was sent to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday night, the anonymous author said the promised leaks would be delayed “because of some new buyers.” The email continued: “Some of HBO’s top competitors are negotiating with us for buying the dump. The deal are near to close. Poor HBO never rise again.”
It’s highly unlikely that any of HBO’s network rivals in the U.S. would purchase stolen content or other information obtained by a security breach. So either the email is an empty threat or its definition of an HBO “competitor” is very broad.
It is unclear if the author of the email is involved in the hack, but it originated from the same account as that of previous communications with THR, which said there would be leaked emails Sunday. Other media outlets received word that HBO content would be downloaded.
Whether or not HBO is out of the woods remains to be seen. The network has been scrambling to contain the fallout after discovering last month that it was the victim of a sizeable data breach. The hackers claimed to have 1.5 terabytes in their possession. HBO first acknowledged that its systems had been compromised in a July 29 email to its 2,500-plus employees, followed by a second email the next day that warned staff to avoid risky email behaviors. That same day, hackers began reaching out to the media, claiming to have pulled off “the greatest leak of cyber space era.” Around the same time, a Game of Thrones script began circulating online as well as unaired episodes of Ballers and Room 104.
As the story gained steam, HBO CEO Richard Plepler told staff on Aug. 2: “We do not believe that our e-mail system as a whole has been compromised, but the forensic review is ongoing.”
The next day, The Hollywood Reporter received an email purported to be from the hackers, which said email leaks would take place Sunday. “HBO (specially Poor Richard) is Bluffing,” the email said, in an apparent reference to Plepler’s memo. “We have ‘STILL’ full access to their webmails….It’s just about money. We have weeks of negotiations with HBO officials, but they broke their promises and want to play with us…So we have one option….Wait till Sunday. HBO is Falling………..”
Heading into the weekend, HBO had to deal with a separate headache when this week’s episode of Game of Thrones began to spread on torrent sites. However, sources within HBO said that case was unrelated to the hack and was due to a breach at Star India, which distributes the series in that country. Star India took responsibility for the breach in a statement and said it was taking action “to swiftly determine the cause.”
Throughout the ordeal, HBO has been removing leaked content almost as quickly as it appears on sites. An entire Reddit thread that offered working links to Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones was removed. Instead, would-be pirates were greeted with the following message from Google: “We’re sorry. You can’t access this item because it is in violation of our Terms of Service.”
Speculation has been mounting about what exactly the hackers could have in their possession. Bloomberg reported that episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm were among the cache.
It is still unclear if the hackers’ claim of having 1.5 terabytes of data is true. And though full or partial episodes of Game of Thrones — the crown jewel of the HBO lineup — would be problematic, it was the prospect of stolen documents and emails that has kept HBO on edge for days.
HBO declined to comment.