Hackers claim to have access to Disney’s upcoming action adventure Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and threaten to release it early unless the studio pays a ransom. Launched in 2003 with The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has become one of the most lucrative film series for the studio in recent years, pulling in more than $3.7 billion in worldwide ticket sales. And while the Pirates film series hit its high water mark at the box office in 2006 with its first sequel Dead Man’s Chest with $1.066 billion in ticket sales, the fourth film, 2011’s On Stranger Tides, cruised in with a $1.045 billion final global tally, showing there was plenty of life left in the franchise.
Arguably sensing how valuable the fifth film in the franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is to Disney, hackers have reportedly gained access to the film about 2 weeks before its scheduled theatrical release on May 26. According to THR, Disney CEO Bob Iger delivered the alarming news to ABC employees at a town hall meeting in New York City that one of the studio’s films was accessed by hackers. The hackers reportedly demanded a huge ransom for the film be paid in Bitcoin, or they would release the first five minutes of the film, followed by 20-minute portions of it until their demands were met. Iger, THR reports, says Disney is refusing to pay.
While THR did not specify the title of the film, Deadline is reporting that it is indeed Dead Men Tell No Tales. Unfortunately, Disney isn’t the only target of hackers in recent weeks, since Netflix fell victim to hackers recently with the release of 10 episodes from the next season of the streaming service’s acclaimed series Orange Is the New Black. In an interview with Deadline, former hacker-turned-FBI-informant Hector Monsegur says the FBI will have a hard time tracing the hack. He says:
“It’s nearly impossible because you have various hackers from pretty much anywhere. Also, they are aware of techniques to track them down. So you could have an Egyptian hacker who uses Russian software so it looks like it’s Russian but is actually from Egypt.”
Monsegur, who is now the director of a tech security firm and regularly appears on the Science Channel series Outlaw Tech, also says good security measures with the studio only goes so far. He says:
“All these companies like Disney, Netflix and Discovery may have very good security teams but you have all these vendors and small production companies which don’t have great security and probably don’t have the budget to focus on their own security so hackers get in pretty easily. Remember back in the day when movies would leak online and they would go to a pirate bay? Now there has been a shift with the advent of ransomware so (these companies) are getting demands to pay for their own IP. Any studio is going to have a problem moving forward protecting their IPs.”
Only time will tell how serious the threat is to Disney with Dead Men Tell No Tales, in what is sure to be a couple tense weeks for the studio. No matter the outcome of the threat, Disney and their fellow big studio competitors will surely be on the same page on creating measures to stop such devastating hacks in the future. If not, it will obviously create huge implications for the financial well-being of the movie industry as a whole.