This one hits probably a tad too close to home as it was reported that a hacker tried to hold the Netflix network hostage over the newest “Orange Is the New Black” episodes. To put it simply, someone claimed they had stolen the newest season of the popular series on April 29th, 2017. Their claim turned out to be true when the hackers shared the entire new season, saying that Netflix failed to pay the requested ransom fee. Of course, some of the fans might even find this useful as the series were shared before their official releases, but it certainly presents certain risks all major networks should consider.
The assumption is that the post-production process is probably the most vulnerable to such exploitations right now because studios and networks outsource to third-party companies to do this for them. In the case of “Orange Is the New Black,” various news reports say that the breach must have occurred at Larson Studios. This digital-mixing service is based in Los Angeles, and it is popular among movie studios and television networks. What does that mean? It means that if the hacker, who uses the name “thedarkoverload,” managed to steal the Netflix series, there might be more content in their possession, too. In fact, the hacker claims that some of the stolen content include unreleased video material from National Geographic, ABC, Fox, and others.
Thedarkoverlord, who uses the idohack3r handle on Twitter, shares most of the stolen content via torrent websites and various file-sharing services. And the user still seems to be tweeting quite often. Although this person did not say explicitly, which network will be targeted next, they tweeted on May 1st, with “It’s nearly time to play another round.” So it is clear that they still have some tricks left.
In a sense, this kind of sequence of events is not that surprising. Keeping in mind that ransomware market has been growing steadily for the last two or three years, it was only a matter of time until such big companies get targeted. If you follow our site, you must have noticed that we deal with ransomware almost on a daily basis. And it is probably the most frustrating type of infection we have dealt with in the last few years. To give you a short recap, ransomware programs enter target computers or computer networks and uses complicated encrypting algorithms to scramble information in user’s data, making it unreadable. In other words, they encrypt the files and then demand that users or companies pay the ransom money. Usually, this ransom fee is expected to be transferred in Bitcoins.
The fact that the unreleased content was snagged from a post-production studio displays one of the weak links in the system of post-production vendors. Big studios and corporations have to rely on this system, but unfortunately, they cannot be sure that whoever they outsource who employ the same level of cyber security. Also, seeing how thedarkoverlord succeeded in stealing the content, it might encourage other hackers to do the same.
The question, on the other hand, is whether the companies that the hackers are planning to blackmail are willing to meet their demands. We can only assume that the hacker leaked “Orange Is the New Black” episodes because Netflix refused to pay the bail. Although it is not clear how the other networks would react to the same demand, Netflix could obviously afford to lose the newest season.
What’s more, some social networking analysts suggest that the unexpected leak might have been boosted Netflix shares the next week, and even given the network some good publicity on the social media. On top of that, some commentators online say that Netflix relies on subscribers who most likely are NOT going to unsubscribe just because they saw the content for free. Not to mention, “Orange Is the New Black” is not the only series one can watch on the network. They do not have to deal with commercial ad placement because Netflix releases one season at once, to capitalize on binge-watching.
All in all, albeit it might apply to other networks, this kind of hack does not cause much harm to something as dynamic as Netflix. It obviously could be a problem later on, if such hacks happened consistently, but for now, the hacker is probably wondering whether they had chosen a cookie a bit too tough to crack.