HBO offered $250K to hackers to buy time, leaked email says

Game of Thrones Season 7 (HBO)
Image: HBO

HBO offered criminals who hacked into its computer system $250,000 in order to delay the release of sensitive information, a leaked email, first obtained by Variety, indicates. 

"You have the advantage of having surprised us,” reads the email, which Variety said was sent by an HBO technology team member on July 27. "In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week.”

HBO confirmed late last month that hackers broke into its network and stole email information. The hackers have reportedly demanded $6 million to hold off on the release of the data. 

HBO’s parent company, Time Warner Inc., is currently seeking federal government approval for an $85.4 billion takeover of the company by AT&T. 

Two years ago, Sony Pictures was rocked to its foundation, and numerous top executives lost their jobs, when hackers stole sensitive emails and dripped them one by one into various media channels. 

With Time Warner beholden to the Trump administration during this sensitive time, who knows what kind of emails hackers might have found surrounding, say, the production of Real Time With Bill Maher, hosted by a staunch opponent of the President? 

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.”

The email described the payment as a Time Warner program designed to reward white hat internet operatives who bring sensitive threats to management’s attention.

Reuters said it tried emailing the hackers at an address it said it obtained from HBO. An automated response was returned with an image of the HBO “bounty” offer, Reuters said.