A leaked email has revealed that HBO has offered to pay a $250,000 ransom fee to the hackers responsible for a massive data breach recently carried out against the cable giant.
Initially reported last week, the attack against HBO was reportedly massive, potentially compromising thousands of documents. Not only did the hackers obtain unreleased episodes of series like Ballers, Room 104, and Insecure, they obtained script materials for upcoming episodes of Game of Thrones, as well as the personal information of HBO employees. It's unclear just how massive the breach was, and the hackers have threatened to release more of the information in the near future.
HBO is attempting to take measures to prevent further fallout. Per Variety, the cable network has offered the hackers a $250,000 ransom payment. The email, which was leaked by the hackers, suggests HBO would pay the hackers through a "white hat" program, where they reward IT professionals for helping them find holes in their security. The $250,000 is decidedly less than the hackers are demanding, and their leak of the email would seem to suggest a rejection of HBO's terms. A source close to the investigation suggests the email was a stalling tactic so HBO can figure out just how serious the situation is. This all comes at a terrible time for HBO's parent company, Time Warner, who are currently in the process of attempting to merge with AT&T, which would create one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world. As they attempt to gain regulatory approval for the move, this kind of high profile crisis is the last thing they want.
It's impossible not to compare this situation to the Sony leak of 2014. Provoked by The Interview, a Seth Rogen/James Franco movie lampooning North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, a North Korean sponsored hacker group breached Sony's security, obtaining the personal information of countless Sony employees, as well as thousands of emails that embarrassed many high-profile Hollywood players, including Sony executive Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin. It also detailed the studio's behind the scenes troubles with the Spider-Man franchise and the runaway budget on Spectre.
It's unclear what the HBO hackers' motivations are at this point. It's also unclear how much damage they're capable of inflicting, and how much damage they intend to inflict. All we know for sure at this point is HBO is taking the situation seriously and is attempting to mitigate their exposure to a potentially devastating breach.