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Iranian Man Charged in HBO Hacking

An Iranian man has been charged in the theft of data from HBO, including unaired programs and scripts, last spring. Behzad Mesri, who went by the pseudonym of “Skote Vahshat,” reports the New York Times, was charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, extortion and identity theft, according to an indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The hacker released unaired episodes of Ballers, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Deuce, among other series. The hacker also released a Game of Thrones script from an episode that had not yet aired.

Mesri remains in Iran, says the NY Times. He is 29.

He had “worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure,” the indictment said, though it did not say the HBO hacking was done on behalf of the state. He was part of a hacking group known as the Turk Black Hat Security team.

Mesri was accused of trying to extort $6 million in Bitcoin from HBO, according to the indictment. The NY Times said it is unlikely Mesri will be arrested, though being wanted by the FBI will make it hard for him to travel internationally.

“HBO has confirmed in the past that we were working with law enforcement from the early stages of the cyber incident. As far as the criminal case is concerned, we prefer to leave any comments to the US Attorney’s Office,” the network said in a statement.

Mesri was not accused of participating in other HBO security breaches over the summer, including one that saw two episodes of Game of Thrones leaked online.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.