Was there a $250k bounty payment offer?


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

The attack came at a sensitive time for HBO: Parent Time Warner is seeking regulatory approval to sell itself to AT&T Inc (T.N) in an $85.4 billion deal announced in October. On Aug. 7, the hackers released a cache of data that contained a script summary for Sunday's Game of Thrones episode as well as 30 days worth of emails from a programming executive.

Whether or not HBO ever meant to follow through with its US$250,000 offer, the email raised questions on Friday among security professionals about the importance of the data and whether HBO's reaction might encourage future attacks.

Hackers who broke into HBO's cyber security system are not backing down.

Still, the criminals may be holding on to more damaging data - both intellectual property, like unaired programming, and sensitive personal information of HBO employees - that they can use as leverage to try to get money from HBO, said Gartner analyst Avivah Litan. The hacker claimed to make $12 million to $15 million per year.

In the published version of the ransom message, the hackers redacted the amount of money they demanded.

The message also asks the hackers to extend a ransom deadline for one week in order for the network to secure and transfer the requested bitcoin payment.

"We are willing to commit to making a bug bounty payment of $250,000 to you as soon as we can establish the necessary account and acquire Bitcoin", the HBO executive's email reportedly stated.

Variety, citing sources "close" to HBO, said the network was merely trying to buy time to figure out its next move, and it never had an intention of paying what the email termed as a "bounty".

Among other series leaked by the hacker included the latest episode of HBO comedy "Insecure", which was to have premiered tonight.