A group of hackers that had been threatening to leak episodes of the forthcoming season five of Orange Is the New Black has gone through with its threats. The hackers leaked the previously unreleased episodes of the much-loved show to the internet at the weekend. This followed Netflix’s failure to acknowledge the hackers’ threats. The hackers, who use the handle The Dark Overlord, claim they stole the many gigabytes of footage from a Hollywood distributor.
The leaked content is available in several places online, including torrent sites gomovies.to and the Pirate Bay. Of course, the show is copyright protected and is the intellectual property of Netflix. For that reason, watching the new episodes is technically piracy.
In many countries (including the UK, the US, and France), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are issuing warning letters to those who torrent pirated content. For that reason, anybody tempted to enjoy the leaked episodes (while they are circulating online for free) is strongly advised to do so with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN service provides its subscribers with encryption. This means that everything a VPN user does online is private. This allows VPN users to access any websites they want, with the security of knowing that no one is watching what they do online.
The Dark Overload leaked the episodes of Orange Is the New Black (ONITB) to the internet just before 06:00 ET on Saturday. The ten episodes are believed to be 11.46 gigabytes in size. The Dark Overlord actually released the very first episode of OITNB the day before (on the Pirate Bay). In all likelihood, it was a last gasp effort to show Netflix just how serious they were about the ransom money.
Netflix had been planning to release the new season of OITNB on 9 June. Now that the vast majority of season five is circulating around piracy sites, it is possible that Netflix will push the release date up (though this is unconfirmed). This is what Netflix had to say about the leak:
“We are aware of the situation. A production vendor used by several major TV studios had its security compromised and the appropriate law enforcement authorities are involved.”
The Dark Overlord has promised on Twitter that it isn’t only Netflix that is going to suffer at his hands. In a tweet following the leak, the hacker said that other networks would be affected next:
“Who is next on the list? FOX, IFC, NAT GEO, and ABC. Oh, what fun we’re all going to have. We’re not playing any games anymore.”
This isn’t the first time that hackers have leaked shows or films to the internet. Hackers are mainly financially motivated, which is why we’ve seen a massive rise in the use of ransomware in recent years.
In November 2014, hacking collective The Guardians of Peace famously leaked Sony’s film The Interview to the web. The media reported them to be disgruntled North Korean hackers working for Kim Jong-un (no doubt part of the dictator’s official cyber warfare unit, Bureau 121).
For the Greater Good (and My Wallet)
Unlike that politically motivated leak, The Dark Overlord hackers appear to mainly care about lining their pockets. Blackmailing content producers has become a popular method of extorting money. Many people – hackers included – feel that copyright holders are greedy and charge way too much to watch their content.
In addition, licensing agreements mean that content costs different amounts in different locations. At times, some content isn’t available in certain places at all, because no licensing agreement is in place. For fans of shows that don’t get a deal where they live, this can be infuriating. It directly contributes to piracy.
Hackers, who are often self-proclaimed vigilantes working for “the people,” feel that content producers are the perfect fall guy. The belief is that they deserve for hackers to blackmail them because of their greed. However, despite what appears to be a “soft” target on this occasion, don’t be fooled – The Dark Overlord is not a friend of the common man.
In January, the same hackers were linked to an attack on a cancer charity in Muncie, Indiana. On that occasion, they demanded $43,000 worth of bitcoins from Little Red Door Cancer Services of East Central Indiana. The charity refused to pay. Interestingly, the hackers didn’t use ransomware to carry out that foul attack. Instead, they stole the contents of the charity’s servers (but not the backup) and promised not to release the data to the public if the charity paid up.
Despite upgrading to slightly more tasteful targets, it is pretty obvious from the message the hackers left when they leaked the episodes that financial reward is the primary aim:
“It didn’t have to be this way, Netflix. You’re going to lose a lot more money in all of this than what our modest offer was.
We’re quite ashamed to breathe the same air as you. We figured a pragmatic business such as yourselves would see and understand the benefits of cooperating with a reasonable and merciful entity like ourselves.”
Which Shows Are the Hackers Threatening to Release?
The hackers claim that they have more shows up their sleeves. The veracity of that claim is completely unconfirmed for the time being. This is the video content that The Dark Overlord hackers claim (via DataBreaches.net) that they may leak in the future:
A Midsummers Nightmare – TV Movie
Above Suspicion – Film
Bill Nye Saves The World – TV Series
Breakthrough – TV Series
Brockmire – TV Series
Bunkd – TV Series
Celebrity Apprentice (The Apprentice) – TV Series
Food Fact or Fiction – TV Series
Handsome – Film
Hopefuls – TV Series
Hum – Short
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – TV Series
Jason Alexander Project – TV Series
Liza Koshy Special – YoutubeRed
Lucha Underground – TV Series
Lucky Roll – TV Series
Making History – TV Series
Man Seeking Woman – TV Series
Max and Shred – TV Series
Mega Park – TV Series
NCIS Los Angeles – TV Series
New Girl – TV Series
That is quite the mega-list of possible future blackmailing attempts.
That said, some of the shows (such as Netflix’s new season of Bill Nye Saves the World) have already aired. Others are being aired at the moment. That would appear to minimize the destructive capabilities of future possible leaks.
However, the OITNB episodes (which were stolen from a small distributor) demonstrate that content producers are at severe risk of hackers accessing their content through smaller firms. While big firms like Netflix spend large amounts of money on cybersecurity, postproduction vendors may not have the means to invest so heavily. As such, this may be a weak spot that could lead to similar leaks in the future.
For now, we will have to wait to see if FOX or any of the other big networks receives similar ransom threats. Of course, it is possible that other studios may decide to pay up in secret. Only time will tell.
Title image credit: jivacore/Shutterstock.com
Image credits: chrisdorney/Shutterstock.com,