HBO appears to have tried to pay off the hackers who stole scripts, shows, and employee information sometime last month. Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter report receiving an email from the hackers containing a transcript of a message sent by HBO offering payment.
In that message, an HBO executive reportedly writes, "As a show of good faith on our side, 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." HBO declined to comment to both publications, but Variety says it was able to confirm that the email was real.
Variety says the email may have been a stalling tactic, as the email was sent in late July before HBO had fully assessed the extent of the hack. That means it’s unclear if HBO actually would have gone through with paying the hackers, but it’s still surprising even to see the offer be made.
Thus far, companies have largely declined to negotiate with hackers, in part for fear of setting a precedent of paying them off. While HBO may have had no intention of paying, it’s unusual to see such a huge corporation engaging with a hacker at all.
Evidently, the payment was never made, and the hackers seem to either be looking for substantially more or to simply embarrass HBO. The Hollywood Reporter says it received an email from the hackers a week ago saying that “it's just about money. We have weeks of negotiations with HBO officials, but they broke their promises and want to play with us.”
The hackers last released HBO data two days ago, when they published the home addresses and phone numbers belonging to some Game of Thrones stars.