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While TV networks are as vigilant as ever about keeping spoilers away from audience's eyes and ears, 2017 has still seen some pretty egregious hacks and leaks. Perhaps the most noteworthy incident came back in May, when HBO was rocked by a deep and widespread hack that led to the leaking of several Game of Thrones scripts, as well as full episodes of other series whose premieres were still months away. It'd been a while since any big news came out about that situation, but it appears the FBI filed an indictment on Tuesday, November 21, charging Iranian hacker Behzad Mesri for the HBO hack.
Going so far as to put Behzad Mesri on actual Wanted posters, the FBI capped off its investigation with the public announcement that this is apparently at least one person responsible for giving HBO's headaches in those spring months ahead of Game of Thrones' Season 7 premiere. He is being charged with three different kinds of computer fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and more. Mesri, a member of the Turk Black Hat Society hacking group, has worked with Iran's military in creating all manner of cyber attacks targeting Israel, but in this case, it's not believed that the HBO hack went forward on behalf of Iran's government. Still, U.S. Attorney Joon Kim noted that Mesri doubtlessly perfected some of his techniques while working in Tehran.
Joon Kim definitely doesn't want anyone to take this situation lightly, and is making a statement with Behzad Mesri, saying the hacker "will never be able to travel outside of Iran without fear of being arrested and brought here to face these charges," according to NBC News. Because yes, Mesri is currently walking free within Iran, and he almost definitely isn't going to be turned over to U.S. authorities for this. That's partly the reason why the FBI decided to go public in releasing the hacker's name and photo, as this kind of "name and shame" tactic is meant to be a warning message to foreign hackers that don't get extradited to the United States, as well as their associates.
Check out the FBI poster below.
Behzad Mesri, who also went by the alias Skote Vahshat, hacked into HBO's servers between May and August, stealing personal information about HBO execs and using that info to continue stealing data. While no actual episodes of Game of Thrones were stolen and leaked, Mesri was responsible for leaking scripts and plot summaries. Outside of the fantasy epic, future episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ballers, Room 104 and The Deuce were all illegally spread online. What's more, Mesri attempted to extort $6 million from HBO to keep the files from going public.
Not that Mesri was the only person responsible for leaking Game of Thrones material this year. A company in India released Season 7's fourth episode ahead of its airing, and authorities were pretty quick to deliver justice there. In filming Season 8, Game of Thrones producers are planning to film various versions of scenes as a confusion-based way of preventing spoilers from being spread.
Here's hoping HBO won't have to worry about any hacks like this ever again. (The same goes for Starz and any other premium networks that got hacked in the recent past.) While waiting for Game of Thrones Season 8 to debut next year, head to our fall TV premiere schedule and our 2018 midseason premiere schedule to see what's on the way.