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US charges Iranian hacker for stealing unaired episodes of hit HBO shows

Taylor Hatmaker

While it didn't dampen enthusiasm for everyone's favorite dragon-oriented political drama, HBO certainly wasn't happy when the major twists from the seventh season of its hottest show popped up online before they aired.

According to a newly released indictment, an Iranian man named Behzad Mesri faces charges for the hack. The document notes Mesri, who also goes by the alias "Skote Vahshat," has worked for the Iranian military on hacks targeting Israel and that he belongs to an Iran-based hacking collective known as the Turk Black Hat. Mesri can't be arrested now, but if he moved between countries that could become an option.

The indictment alleges that Mesri began his efforts to hack HBO in May 2017, feeling out the network for a way onto its networks. It goes on to describe how between May and July of this year, Mesri hacked into the accounts of multiple HBO employees, using that access to steal files, including episodes of "Barry," “Ballers,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Room 104” and “The Deuce," as well as scripts from Game of Thrones and confidential HBO financial documents.

The case is being pursued by the Southern District of New York's Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit, with Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy T. Howard, Richard Cooper and Jonathan Cohen leading the prosecution.

"American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated -- not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom," Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said of the case.

"For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away —  eventually, winter will come."