The Game of Thrones Hacker Has Been Identified and Charged

Iranian Charged in `Game of Thrones Hack Extortion Scheme

He taunted the network with images, including a photo of the "Night King" from "Game of Thrones", writing, "Good luck to HBO". The alleged hacker, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified as Behzad Mesri, an Iranian citizen, demanded $6 million in bitcoin from HBO, threatening to release more sensitive content if the media company refused to pay up. The indictment did not say whether Mesri was working on behalf of the Iranian government when he hacked HBO. The document notes Mesri, who also goes by the alias "Skote Vahshat", has worked for the Iranian military on hacks targeting Israel and that he belongs to an Iran-based hacking collective known as the Turk Black Hat. He is now still believed to be in Iran, but USA officials are hoping the charges will deter anyone in the future of thinking of hacking into HBO, or any other major media company. Several sources told the publication that "a series of criminal cases could increase pressure on lawmakers" to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Nevertheless, the attorney said, the indictment sent a message to Mr Mesri and all other hackers that "they are not safe behind the anonymity of computer screens". Later, he allegedly posted a screenshot of the HBO logo online, with the words, "Winter is coming".

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. Not long after, he reportedly upped his ransom demand to $6 million. However, as Engadget points out, while this is a win for HBO legally, since the hacker does not reside in the U.S., he has not yet been arrested. He also compromised e-mail accounts for various HBO employees.


In March, DOJ charged four men, including two Russian intelligence officers, for hacking Yahoo and stealing information on 500 million users. Just past year, he noted, the federal government charged seven Iranians with carrying out a cyber attack on dozens of USA banks on behalf of the Iranian government.

Instead, the USA uses the charges as part of its burgeoning "name-and-shame" strategy of charging foreign nationals, hoping the ensuing travel and financial restrictions will deter others from following in their footsteps.

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