An Iranian military hacker indicted for HBO data theft

By : |November 23, 2017 0

The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has named an Iranian hacker named Behzad Mesri as the culprit behind four month old HBO data theft case.

The Justice Department’s indictment charges 39-year-old Mesri, also known as “Skote Vashat” or “Mr. Smith” with computer fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, and the rarer charge of using a computer for extortion. According to the charges, Mesri broke into HBO computers and stole data — including unaired episodes of “Game of Thrones” and financial data — and then threatened to release the info unless HBO paid $5.5 million in Bitcoin.

“Mersi allegedly organized his hacking scheme from halfway around the world, in Iran,” Southern District of New York district attorney Joon Kim told reporters at a Tuesday press conference. “He now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice.”

“For the rest of his life – and he’s a relatively young man in his late 20s – he will never be able to travel outside Iran,” Kim added.

If convicted, Mesri faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud; up to five years for each of the four charges related to computer fraud; a two-year mandatory sentence for aggravated identity theft; and up to two years in prison for the extortion charge.

The indictment says that Mesri has often worked on the behalf of the Iranian military to hack other countries’ military systems, nuclear software systems and Israeli infrastructure. Besides the state-sponsored hacking, he was also allegedly a member of a group known as the Turk Black Hat Security Team, which is responsible for defacing hundreds of website in the US and elsewhere.

While some federal officials have raised concerns about announcing the charges publicly, Kim, the federal prosecutor, said the charges against Mesri were announced after the US Attorney’s Office in New York considered whether there was a realistic chance of actually apprehending the suspect, weighed against the “importance of sending a message that we can and will, even when you are immediately beyond our reach, target you and make a public statement like this.”

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