An anonymous team of hackers are reportedly demanding a ransom of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin from premium television network HBO, in exchange for not revealing sensitive information about its hit television program, Game of Thrones. (Related: The Westeros Economy)

Now Variety and the Hollywood Reporter have acquired copies of an email dated July 27 sent by HBO to the hackers. The network has said it is "working hard" to review the material sent by the hackers and has asked for the ransom deadline to be extended as it scrambles to "establish the necessary account and acquire bitcoin."

Interestingly, HBO refrains from calling the bitcoin payment a ransom. "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," said a company executive in the email. 

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have gained popularity with prominent mainstream investors and have soared into new price echelons. Nonetheless, there remain major concerns among potential investors about the security of these new asset types. Specifically, the anonymity built into the blockchain technology which supports all digital currencies has some people worried not only about the security of their own holdings, but also the potential ways in which criminal operations could take advantage. Now, one hacking group has done just that and dragged the world's most popular show into their web of malfeasance. 

Short Video Addressed to HBO CEO

The report on the potential blackmail incident reveals that the team of hackers released a five-minute video (above) addressed to HBO CEO Richard Plepler. The speaker on the video was identified only as a "Mr. Smith," and the video contained the demands and nature of the hack. The team indicated that they had worked for six months to access HBO's network and that they had eventually been successful in their attempts to secure draft scripts of Game of Thrones and emails from top executives at the network which contained sensitive information.

Some highlights, since the video manifesto is long:

Also, we obtained full scripts and cast list of your (and our) very popular TV series; Game of thrones S7.

You concealed GOT7 very carefully so we can't find it due to lack of time although we are so close. Instead, we produced some tiny mini-series of GOT 7 for you which be able to shock the entire world!!!

Leakage will be your worst nightmare; your competitors will know about your current & future strategies, your inner circle inside HBO & senior staff will be thrown into chaos, your views specially fans became very upset and they blame you rather than us!, downfall in stocks will be predictable and so on. As you are in the business from decades, you yourselves will be full aware of catastrophic consequences .... So make a wise decision!

Demands Include "Salary" in Bitcoin

The hackers seemed to treat the operation as a regular job of sorts: the video includes demands for a "6-month salary in Bitcoin," and the team indicated that they would expect to make between $12 million and $15 million per year from similar activities. This suggests that the ransom demand would be for between $6 million and $7.5 million.

You pay our 6 month salary to bitcoin and we get away form your map. As we witnesses in other cases, F*ing FBI or other police enforcements, teach you couple of outdated trick to play with us and buy time. It doesn't work with us.

Do the bitcoin job quick. Some banks in USA have problems in exchanging bitcoin and caused trouble in past. We don't accept sentences like: we want to pay but banks are lazy and don't cooperate. Its your problem. Give some bucks, they do like slaves.

The fact that transactions on the blockchain network are decentralized and anonymous means that criminal organizations like this one can conduct business and illegal activities without being monitored as closely by government officials. Nonetheless, the use of cryptocurrencies among criminal operations like this one remains low, according to Ross Wilson of Bitcoin exchange CoinCorner. "If you look at will see that the amount of organized crime that use Bitcoin is actually much lower than perceived." Perhaps part of the reason that the public perception of the incidence of Bitcoin-related organized crime is so high is that the stories tend to be widely shared and highly publicized.

As of this writing, it is unclear how HBO will respond to the hackers' demands, or if they will respond at all. Details on the hacking incident are sparse as well, and it remains to be seen whether the hackers did, in fact, successfully access sensitive information.

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