It turns out HBO may actually be negotiating with hackers who breached the corporation’s network and stole data including the episodes of current season of Game of Thrones.
The same hackers have now released an email they claim is from HBO whererein the company has expressed willingness to pay them $250,000 as part of a negotiation over data swiped from HBO’s servers. The email in question was sent by John Beyler, an HBO executive, on July 27.
In the email, Beyler thanks the hackers for making them aware about previously unknown security vulnerabilities. The executive asked for a 1-week delay and said HBO was willing to make a “good faith” payment of $250,000, calling it a “bug bounty” reward for IT professionals rather than a ransom.
HBO has declined to comment on the email or anything related to the security breach as of now. A person close to the investigation confirmed the authenticity of the email, but said it was an attempt to buy time and assess the situation. The same hackers have subsequently released two dumps of HBO material and demanded a multi-million dollar ransom.
While the email can’t be seen as a guarantee that HBO will follow through with the promise of payment, the email does raise questions about the importance of the data and whether HBO’s reaction might encourage future attacks.
Beyler’s email to the hackers said the company was working “very hard” to review all the material they provided, and also trying to figure out a way to make a large transaction in bitcoin, the hackers’ preferred payment method.
“You have the advantage of having surprised us,” Beyler wrote. “In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week.”