A high stakes hold up…
Game of Thrones just aired one of its best episodes ever for its penultimate season 7 finale. This season has been smashing records with over 16M viewers in its debut which is 50% more than last season. The finale was also their show’s most watched episode with 12.1 Million viewers tuning in live. We’ve got a lot of closure on several storylines and characters while adding some big surprises and, of course, dragons. Behind the celebration of one of TV’s biggest shows, this past month exposed a cyber war between HBO and alleged hackers who stole information and periodically leaked data and content throughout the duration of the 7th season.
“Mr. Smith”, the user or hacking group responsible, stole about 1.5 Terabytes of valuable data from HBO. To avert further leaks there was a $6M ransom on the line. Refusing to give in to demands, leak after leak hit the internet from cast emails to scripts, and even episodes of Game of Thrones and other shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm. Still, HBO has stood their ground and not caved in to demands. What does this say about the power of hackers? The data shows that piracy was already a big deal for GOT seeing 10s of millions of downloads every episode. HBO likely felt that the loyal fans would remain loyal, and people who pirated would still pirate.
In general when commercial music or video hits the internet, it lands on some sort of torrent or piracy website like Pirate Bay within 24 hrs. So, what did HBO have to lose? They create a better experience and people don’t want spoilers, the risk of getting caught, or a virus. All are many effects of piracy. The people who were going to pirate the show, already did, the diehard fans and viewing parties still tuned in to HBO. Most loyal GOT fans, hate spoilers, and they also don’t like to spoil it for others, so they want to watch it in its pure unadulterated form, on HBO, with no glitches or hassle.
Studios are no stranger to hacks. The infamous Sony hack still looms over Hollywood and both Netflix and Disney faced hacking extortions this year as well. One thing entertainment has always fantasized are hackers. Think properties like Snowden, Die Hard, and Mr. Robot. They all expose and often glorify hacking. It feels more prominent as of late, but it’s not just affecting entertainment as seen over the last several years with high profile hacks like Target, Ashley Madison, and Ethereum.
It may not seem like it, but these hackers do help the ecosystem by forcing us to address vulnerabilities. This might explain why HBO was more interested in paying for knowledge of how the security flaw was discovered than the ransom itself. There are lots of examples through out the tech community of tech companies paying hackers to find holes in their security systems. This is all coming at such an important time where the real threat of cyber crime and hacking can affect your very life. As we give more of our data to technology, we become more vulnerable as the russian election hacking has made scarily evident.
It’s important to understand the dynamics of cyber warfare as we become more a part of technology, all of our information will be digital, the way we do things and access things will be digital. Instead of hurting us physically, criminals will likely turn to hurting people digitally. Take note, and in small ways start to protect yourself. Piracy no longer pays, but cyber warfare still hurts.