Over two weeks after HBO was compromised by a hacker seeking a multi-million payout, today’s release of correspondence of the premium cabler offering $250,000 indicates that there might be more smoke than fire in this latest Hollywood attack.
Unlike the sprawling and gutting Sony attack of late 2014 when assumed agents of North Korea quickly spewed the studio’s secrets, top tier executive emails, employee personal information and several unreleased movies across the Internet, this HBO hack by a self-titled “Mr. Smith” mainly seems to be dribbling out at the periphery.
Which is leading some in Hollywood to wonder what the HBO hackers really have in their data breach back pocket besides sending up flares to the trades?
“If they had something they would have put it out there by now like what happened with Netflix,” said an industry insider of the penetration of HBO’s systems and the hack of a subcontractor of the streaming service that saw unreleased Orange Is The New Black episodes appearing on file sharing sites earlier this year. “Either they didn’t get far, there wasn’t a lot to get or what they got is in too many pieces to add up to much,” the dismissive exec added of the alleged 1.5 terabyte data snare and threats to dump HBO content and info online.
While the hackers could still be saving some big reveal, at this point HBO hasn’t handed over the approximately $6 million that was demanded back on July 23. The “good faith” $250,000 “bounty payment” offered by an HBO IT exec on July 27 to the hacker, in a correspondence revealed Thursday, is obviously way below the initial ask.
The borderline form letter thanking the hacker “for bringing these types of things to our attention” was in fact not even a genuine offer, a source familiar with the situation at HBO tells Deadline. The blasé reply was an attempt by the cabler to buy time as it assessed the hack in the opening days.
Sure, doing the digital equivalent of stamping their feet ever since, the hackers have unveiled some emails from a mid-level exec, an upcoming GoT script, unaired Ballers episodes, some marketing material and a few other treats but no crown jewels.
Unlike a media screener-related GoT leak of four episodes in 2015 or the hack-unrelated August 6 episode leak that was posted off an Indian distributor last week, no full episodes of the current penultimate season have been dropped online yet by the hackers. Nor have there been any big reveals for the Emmy winning blockbuster or Richard Plepler’s correspondence, despite a misleading and likely manipulated email address that was said to come from the HBO boss.
Working with law enforcement and tech specialists, HBO has been pretty circumspect the past few days about the hack. Officially quiet, except for an internal note from Plepler on August 2 assured staff that “we do not believe that our e-mail system as a whole has been compromised,” HBO of course wants this whole thing to fade away.
It already may have.