Two weeks ago, the 4th episode of the record-breaking Game of Thrones Season 7 was released days before its original air date. It was the work of entertainment hackers and everybody thought it was the last they would hear of them. Only few days ago, the 6th episode has been released again online, this time a week ahead of schedule.
Hollywood’s new villain
The scourge of entertainment hacking is taking over Hollywood. Major studios have been hacked and are still being hacked. HBO, Sony, W.M.E, ICM, UTA and Netflix the list goes one. Early this year, the complete season of Orange is The New Black was released months ahead of its June 19th date.
But the main victim appears to HBO. Hackers obtained roughly 1.5 terabytes of information for the network’s system and stole amongst many some episodes of Room 104 and Ballers. Even the script of a yet unaired episode of Game of Thrones. Other items that were stolen include financial records, company emails and personal information of some customers. The hackers have now threatened to publish more sensitive information.
As of now, the identity of HBO’s hackers has not been discovered. The prevalence of corporate hacking indicates a growing problem in Hollywood. In some cases, it risks pitting two countries at war. You might recall how the Sony hacking of 2014, for Seth Rogen and James Franco’s movie The Interview threatened to spark conflict between the US and North Korea.
The Sony hack changed the game
Entertainment hacking which once used to be a common game among puerile hackers is becoming a criminal mark of showmanship and power tussle between nations. Graham Johnson, an IT cyber expert who has worked with several agencies said cyber-crime is usually a practical joke to a group of underground hackers. These people are usually made up of computer geeks and nerd including avid gamers. The ‘goal’ of this prank besides the ‘ransom’ requested is to gain bragging rights among their peers.
All this changed when the Sony hack involved the US government. The FBI accused North Korea, but unknown to many, Sony had earlier been hacked by a group that called itself The Lizard Squad. It was made up of countries in Eastern Europe and Australia. Tracing the probe of these hackers eventually led the FBI to North Korean hackers.
Corporate hacks often begin as a simple phishing attack
According to a former security expert with Scotland Yard James Beeston, most hacks start off as a simple act. “If you study some sophisticated hacks that were carefully orchestrated and trace them to their origin, you will see they often began with a Phishing attack that went unnoticed,” James says.
Unfortunately, there is no defence against someone who is determined to break into a computer system. The strongest tests have often shown that hackers can beat a firewall if they have the resources and willpower. The best practice technique is for organisations to keep restructuring their firewall and plugging vulnerable spots every few days.
“It is a full-time job,” says Graham. “Unless the entertainment networks want to keep losing their top episodes to hackers, they must up their game.”