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Leaked email shows HBO negotiating with hackers

Published Aug. 12, 2017

BOSTON — Hackers released an email from HBO in which the company expressed willingness to pay them $250,000 as part of a negotiation over electronic data swiped from HBO's servers.

The July 27 email was sent by John Beyler, an HBO executive who thanked the hackers for "making us aware" of previously unknown security vulnerabilities. The executive asked for a one-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 declined to comment.

The same hackers have subsequently released two dumps of HBO material and demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom.

Whether or not HBO ever intended to follow through with its $250,000 offer, the email raised questions Friday among security professionals about the importance of the data as well as how it will affect future attacks.

"It's interesting that they're spinning it as a bug bounty program," said Pablo Garcia, CEO of FFRI North America, based in Aliso Viejo, Calif. "They're being extorted. If it was a bug bounty, it'd be on the up and up."

The leaks included scripts from Game of Thrones episodes and a month of email from the account of HBO's vice president for film programming.