Posted Aug. 8, 2017 at 6:35 a.m.

Tech wrap: HBO faces ransom; Netflix buys comic publisher; hacker court date; right to be forgotten update

Published: 2017-08-08 06:35:39
Updated: 2017-08-08 06:35:39

Bulldog

In today's wrapup of technology news:

  • Hackers demand millions in ransom for stolen HBO data
  • Netflix makes 1st acquisition: comic book maker Millarworld
  • Court date looms for UK cybersecurity expert held in Vegas
  • UK plans to strengthen online 'right to be forgotten'

The details:

  • Hackers demand millions in ransom for stolen HBO data

A group of hackers posted a fresh cache of stolen HBO files online Monday, and demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom from the network to prevent the release of entire television series and other sensitive proprietary files.

HBO, which had previously acknowledged the theft of "proprietary information," said it's continuing to investigate and is working with police and cybersecurity experts.

In a swaggering five-minute video from "Mr. Smith" to HBO CEO Richard Plepler included in the dump, the hackers used white text scrolling on a black background to deliver an ultimatum. In short: Pay up within three days or see the group, which claims to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of HBO shows and confidential corporate data, upload entire series and sensitive proprietary files.

Specifically, the hackers demanded "our 6-month salary in bitcoin," and claimed they earn $12 million to $15 million a year from blackmailing organizations whose networks they have penetrated. They said they would only deal directly with "Richard" and only send one "letter" detailing how to pay.

The dump itself was just 3.4 gigabytes — mostly technical data that appears to provide a topography of HBO's network and to list network-administrator passwords. It includes what appear to be draft scripts from five "Game of Thrones" episodes, including one upcoming episode, and a month's worth of email apparently from the account of Leslie Cohen, HBO's vice president for film programming.

  • Netflix makes 1st acquisition: comic book maker Millarworld

Netflix says it made its first acquisition, comic book publisher Millarworld, with plans to turn its characters into new films and shows for the video streaming service.

Millarworld's graphic novels "Kick-Ass," ''Wanted" and "Kingsman" have already been turned into movies by major studios.

Los Gatos, California-based Netflix didn't disclose on Monday how much it paid for Millarworld.

Netflix already has made a hefty commitment to comic-book series with "Daredevil," ''Jessica Jones" and "Luke Cage," among others based on Marvel characters. The streaming service ventured outside the Marvel universe with the recently announced series based on "The Umbrella Academy," published by Dark Horse Comics.

Netflix has been spending heavily for original movies and shows in all genres, such as "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black," to attract new viewers and stand apart from rival services.

It reported in July that it had more than 100 million subscribers worldwide.

  • Court date looms for UK cybersecurity expert held in Vegas

A Tuesday court date looms in Wisconsin for a British cybersecurity researcher arrested last week in Las Vegas on charges that, years before he won acclaim for helping to stop a worldwide ransomware attack, he created and distributed a malware program to pilfer banking passwords from unsuspecting computer users.

Marcus Hutchins, 23, of Ilfracombe, England, was still being held Monday in federal custody in a jail outside Las Vegas, where he was arrested last week at McCarran International Airport following the Def Con convention for computer security professionals.

Electronic Frontier Foundation general counsel Kurt Opsahl said he was awaiting word that bail had been posted and that Hutchins has been released from federal custody. The foundation, a digital civil-liberties nonprofit, was helping Hutchins obtain legal counsel.

Hutchins' attorney in Las Vegas, Adrian Lobo, didn't immediately respond to telephone and email messages from The Associated Press.

Hutchins is scheduled to appear Tuesday morning in federal court in Milwaukee on six charges, including conspiracy to commit computer fraud in 2014 and 2015. He is accused of creating and distributing malicious software called Kronos designed to steal banking passwords.

Hutchins was credited with helping in May to curb the spread of WannaCry ransomware during an attack that crippled thousands of computers worldwide.

  • UK plans to strengthen online 'right to be forgotten'

Britain plans to strengthen the online "right to be forgotten" with a law making social media companies delete personal information on request.

The government on Monday published details of a Data Protection Bill , including a provision allowing people to ask for personal data held by companies to be erased.

The changes also would make it easier for people to find out what data companies or organizations hold on them, and would ban firms from collecting personal information without explicit consent.

The proposed law gives a regulator power to levy fines of up to 17 million pounds ($22 million) on firms that fail to comply.

The bill is intended to replace European Union privacy protections when Britain leaves the bloc in 2019. It must be approved by Parliament to become law.

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