HBO Hacker May Have Faked Leaked Document to Target CEO Richard Plepler (EXCLUSIVE)

HBO Hackers Faked Name of CEO's

The hackers who broke into HBO’s computer networks seem to have manipulated at least one of the leaked documents to make it look like they got into the email account of HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler, Variety has learned from a source close the investigation of the hack. This also raises questions about some of the hackers’ other claims, and their interactions with the media.

After first leaking some un-aired episodes of HBO shows like “Ballers” and “Barry” last week, the hackers sent emails to a number of news outlets early Tuesday to direct them to a new stash of leaked documents. The newly-leaked data included a file named “Richard Contact list.txt” that contained thousands of email addresses, suggesting that the hackers may have been able to steal Plepler’s email address book.


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However, upon closer inspection, it’s clear that this is not the case. The file in question only contains email addresses from within HBO and Time Warner, including those of thousands of employees. There’s not a single email for anyone from outside of the company — curious for what’s supposed to be the address book of a renowned industry power player like Plepler.

What’s more, the list also includes addresses for dozens of internal test accounts, email addresses for HBO’s most popular shows, addresses for payroll and other HR matters and email addresses used to reserve conference rooms — also not something one would expect a CEO to deal with.

To complicate matters even further, a source close to the investigation told Variety that the file was actually renamed by the hackers before it got sent to the press. The original version, as it was stolen from HBO’s servers, was called “Vivianne Contact list,” according to that source.

Apparently, it was part of some files that originally belonged to another senior HBO executive who also had seen passwords to many of her personal online accounts leaked last week. It’s unclear why this executive had the list in her possession, but it doesn’t seem to be her email address book either.

Renaming a single file may seem like a smaller detail in the grander scheme of things, but it does raise some important questions about the trustworthiness of the hackers, and the way the media should engage with them. Since the beginning of last week, the hackers have actively reached out to the press to give journalists their version of the story. This included claims that they had stolen a total of 1.5 terabyte of data, accessed internal email and other sensitive documents, and worked for half a year on the hack.

HBO meanwhile has kept quiet on details of the hack. The network acknowledged last week that it had incurred a breach, and on Monday sent out the following statement: “HBO believed that further leaks might emerge from this cyber incident when we confirmed it last week. As we said, the forensic review is ongoing. While it has been reported that a number of emails have been made public, the review to date has not given us a reason to believe that our email system as a whole has been compromised.”

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  1. WTF? says:

    “belonged to another senior HBO executive who also had SEEN passwords to many of her personal online accounts leaked last week.”

    Sad that no one has yet to point out such a horrible and obvious typo in this article :-/

  2. Droidalyzer says:

    Seems biggest breaches of the HBO . Tough time for then ….Well see what gonna happen next!

  3. Maverick says:

    ” If you can interbreed with another creature, then you are of the same species.”

    This statement is 100% false. Many creatures are different species, and can hybridize.

  4. nullhogarth says:

    It looks more and more like this wasn’t a “hack” at all, but instead an internal leak by a disgruntled employee.

  5. Richard branson says:

    “Renaming a single file may seem like a smaller detail in the grander scheme of things, but it does raise some important questions about the **** trustworthiness of the hackers *****” HAHAHA… they stole your information and you’re asking about the trustworthiness of the hackers???? What kind of article is this? Did you even read this out loud? It’s kind of like saying “Well the guy seemed nice when he held me up at gunpoint.” Sigh… why do I even bother reading articles from Variety… this happens all the time.

  6. Anti-racists say there is a RACE problem that can only be solved when the third world pours into EVERY White country and “assimilates.”

    What if I said there was a RACE problem that could only be solved if hundreds of millions of non-Blacks were brought into EVERY Black country? How long before people realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem, but the conclusion to the BLACK problem?

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.

    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.

    • nullhogarth says:

      While your remark bears no relationship to the article you posted it to, I nevertheless feel compelled to inform you that, in science, there is no such word as “race”. Race is a term with no meaning. If you can interbreed with another creature, then you are of the same species. There is no such thing as “race” in this context. That you don’t like people of a different skin color only means you are a hateful, fearful human being, but it doesn’t make you superior to that person.

  7. The Sword of the Morning says:

    How dare they threaten the Iron Throne. Winter is Coming for these hackers.

  8. …sounds to me as though someone is setting up a…”plausible deniability scheme”…which would allow a person to dis-own the embarrassing content of their own personal, internal e-mails….
    RJ O’Guillory

  9. Kaboom! says:

    Do the hackers really have any motivation for manipulating a set of emails to represent something else? Most likely not. Does HBO have any motivation for manipulating that same set of emails as to not look as bad as it is? Yes.

  10. Brian says:

    “but it does raise some important questions about the trustworthiness of the hackers”… and you actually had questions about their trustworthiness? Have they not demonstrated that they can’t be trusted already? How about raising the question of “should the media be carrying the water for the criminals?” That would be a plan, but unfortunately the media is tripping over themselves to generate words about it.

    • nullhogarth says:

      Please explain what is wrong with using the word untrustworthy in this context. To me, it means that we cannot trust that this was an actual “hack”. What it suggests is that this was an internal leak, not a hack. We cannot “trust” the information in the leak, since at least one file name was changed. If we know of one change, how many others might there be?

    • geri313 says:

      It is the job of news organizations to report news stories. This is news. Period.

    • …um…yeah…that would be about…I don’t know…”spot on”! Ha!

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