Federal authorities have charged an Iranian hacker with hacking into HBO’s servers, stealing unreleased info of Game of Thrones and other shows, then demanding millions in Bitcoin to “extort” the network, prosecutors claimed Tuesday.
Behzad Mesri, also known by his alias Skoke Vahshat, is a “self-professed expert in computer hacking techniques,” according to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The member of the Turk Black Hat Security hacking team has also worked on behalf of the Iranian military to attack military and nuclear software systems, as well as Israeli infrastructure.
Mesri has been indicted for cybercrimes concerning the alleged hacks on HBO servers. However, federal agents are still trying to locate Mesri, so he has not been taken into custody.
While the papers do not accuse Mesri of working on behalf of the Iranian government when he compromised HBO’s servers, NBC News reports that including his government involvement is part of a “name and shame” strategy to gain leverage to have the accused extradited without issue.
The indictment claims that Mesri launched a campaign in May to gain access to HBO’s servers by entering through employee user accounts. From there, he obtained full episodes of some shows, including Ballers, Curb Your Enthusiasm and new series The Deuce and Room 104.
Most famously, he gained access to scripts, summaries and promotional materials for un-aired episodes Game of Thrones, the network’s top series.
In July, he began taunting HBO executives via email.
"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."
Mesri demanded $5.5 million in Bitcoin currency from the executives or he threatened to release the material and destroy data from the company. After a week of silence from HBO, he slowly leaked portions of his hacked data to the media and online.
Throughout the incident, HBO said they did not engage in communication with the hacker, but it did make internal changes to prevent the situation from happening again.
HBO was only one of the hacker’s targets, the US federal government alleges. Mesri put “hundreds of website defacements” into action across the world, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors are expected to release more information regarding Mesri and his charges at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.