HBO email suggesting $250,000 bitcoin payout for hackers who stole 'Game of Thrones' script is a 'delay tactic’: Insider

Key Points
  • HBO offered $250,000 as a "bounty payment" to a hacker who stole TV show scripts from the company.
  • But a source at the company tells CNBC it was just a "delay tactic."
  • Scripts from shows such as "Game of Thrones" were stolen last month.
HBO is trying to get $250,000 in bitcoin to pay hackers who stole Game of Thrones scripts

HBO offered $250,000 as a "bounty payment" to a hacker who stole TV show scripts from the company, according to an email obtained by CNBC, but a source familiar with the situation said it was just a "delay tactic."

Details of a data breach at HBO came to light last week. Scripts from shows such as "Game of Thrones" were leaked online ahead of Sunday's episode. A hacker or group called "Mr. Smith" claimed responsibility and said they had around 1.5 terabytes of data from HBO.

The hackers demanded money worth six months of their salary, claiming they make $12 million to $15 million from stealing intellectual property and blackmailing companies. Those hackers appear to have been engaged in email correspondence with HBO.

In the message dated July 27, an IT employee said the company has been "working hard" since July 23 and asked the hackers to extend their ransom deadline, before making an offer.

"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," the email read, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

CNBC has verified the email.

The HBO employee has been careful about wording. Instead of referring to a ransom, the employee has used the term "bug bounty payment." This phrase refers to a reward paid by a company to good hackers for finding flaws in their system. Many technology companies have bug bounty programs in which they reward good hackers for finding security holes.

But a source close to the situation told CNBC that this email was merely a "delay tactic" and said HBO is having no communication with the hackers now.

HBO declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.