A computer hacker who used to work for the Iranian military has been charged with breaching HBO servers to steal scripts of unaired “Game of Thrones” episodes and other unaired episodes of hit network shows, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Behzad Mesri, an Iran-based hacker, allegedly breached HBO servers in May, stole confidential company data over the course of several months and then attempted to extort HBO for $6 million in bitcoin, according to the indictment released by U.S. prosecutors in New York City Tuesday morning.
The high-profile hack played out publicly over the summer, as the unknown perpetrators leaked the script of an episode from the seventh season “Game of Thrones” before it aired. Hackers also released unaired episodes of popular shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Ballers.”
According to the indictment, Mesri is a "self-professed expert in computer hacking techniques, and had worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure.”
Mesri also at times worked on behalf of the Iranian hacker group Turk Black Hat Security to deface "hundreds of website platforms in the United States and elsewhere, the indictment alleges.
The charges were unveiled by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office. At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Joon Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, cheered the swift charges as an "impressive feat of law enforcement."
Prosecutors described the charges as a warning signal to foreign hackers looking to target companies or other entities in the United States. U.S. officials cannot currently arrest Mesri because he is based in Iran.
"Today, winter comes for Bahzad Mesri," Kim said, using a reference from "Game of Thrones." "These charges will follow him wherever he goes until he is brought to justice."
Mesri allegedly stole the information by compromising user accounts belonging to multiple HBO employees and gaining access to the company’s systems.
Mesri is accused of stealing unaired episodes of the shows “Ballers,” “Barry,” “Room 104,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Deuce”; scripts and plot summaries of unaired episodes of “Game of Thrones”; cast and crew contact lists; financial documents; and online credentials for the company’s social media accounts.
This post was updated at 1:19 p.m.