Iranian hacker charged in HBO ‘Game of Thrones’ theft

Federal authorities have charged an Iranian who has ties to his country’s military with hacking into HBO’s computer system, stealing unaired episodes of hit shows and demanding millions in Bitcoin as ransom.

Behzad Mesri is a member of the Turk Black Hat Security hacking team and has worked for the Iranian military on computer attacks against Israel, according to an indictment filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The court papers do not accuse Mesri of working on behalf of the Iranian government when he allegedly infiltrated HBO’s networks. The indictment, however, is part of a “name and shame” strategy the U.S. has used in the past to quell interference by foreign hackers it doesn’t expect to be turned over.

The hacker stole scripts for unaired episodes of “Game of Thrones.” HBO

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.”

In July, he began sending taunting emails to HBO executives, prosecutors said.

“Hi to all losers!” one said. “Yes it’s true! HBO is hacked…Beware of heart attacks.” His emails includes images of the “Game of Thrones” character the Night King with messages like, “Good luck to HBO.”

Related: HBO hacked, thieves claim to have ‘Game of Thrones’ info

Mesri, who uses the online handle Skote Vahshat, said he would release the material and destroy data unless he was paid $5.5 million in Bitcoin currency, the indictment charges. A week later, he began leaking portions of the cache over the internet and to media outlets.

In a statement in August, HBO said that was not communicating with the hacker.

“It has been widely reported that there was a cyber incident at HBO. The hacker may continue to drop bits and pieces of stolen information in an attempt to generate media attention. That’s a game we’re not going to participate in,” the company said in a statement.

Prosecutors are expected to release more information at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.