"Winter is coming," and this time, it has HBO in its crosshairs. The hunger for Game of Thrones goes beyond a record-breaking 16 million viewers, and a reported 91.74 million illegal downloads: it has also led to an HBO security breach and alleged episode theft.
The Associated Press reports the cable giant has been hacked, and is seeking legal action from both law enforcement and cybersecurity firms following the unsolicited release of upcoming episodes and scripts from series that may include Game of Thrones, Ballers and Room 104. While HBO will not confirm the specific stolen data, CEO Richard Plepler alerted his employees of the breach today by email.
"Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us," wrote Plepler. "I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests."
"The problem before us is unfortunately all too familiar in the world we now find ourselves a part of. As has been the case with any challenge we have ever faced, I have absolutely no doubt that we will navigate our way through this successfully."
According to Entertainment Weekly, this news comes after an anonymous email was sent to several reporters with a threat of "the greatest leak of the cyber space [sic] era." The note also promised Game of Thrones content, and promised that more will be "coming soon," before adding "HBO is falling."
The origin and scope of the hack has not yet been confirmed, and so far, no episodes of Game of Thrones beyond a reported treatment for next week's episode have leaked online.
HBO has been attempting to crack down on Thrones downloading by sending the alleged pirates cease and desist letters and warnings through the anti-piracy entity Echelon. The letters are forwarded to alleged downloaders by their respective internet providers, and inform them they can access the channel's content through other legal means or cable subscriptions.
Last week, U.K.-based anti-privacy technology company MUSO found the season seven premiere of the Emmy-winning series had been pirated over 91.74 million times through unauthorized streams, peer-to-peer torrent downloads and other means.
The fantasy drama has become somewhat notorious for its popularity among unauthorized downloaders, and in 2015, media intelligence firm Tru Optik found 19 per cent of the show's Canadian viewers watched the show through piracy. That's more than double the U.S. rate of 8 per cent. Canada's appetite has not waned either, as this month's season seven premiere drew more than 1.8 million eyeballs, making it the most-watched episode in HBO Canada, Canadian entertainment specialty, and Canadian Pay TV history.
This would not be the first time HBO has suffered a cyberattack leading to a leak of content. In 2015, four episodes from the beginning of season five leaked online. Incidents like this subsequently led to HBO restricting the distribution of advance copies of its shows to the press.
Earlier this year, Netflix faced a similar cyberattack and saw several episodes of its series Orange is the New Black hit the web prior to its release.
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