In the simpler times of the 1990s, computer hacking was mostly the realm of weird, ill-conceived, we-don’t-understand-computers movies like “The Net” or “Hackers,” or a plot device for when screenwriters couldn’t find another way out of a pickle. But recent years have shown what a threat it is. The entertainment industry got an early brunt of it when Sony was hacked over the Seth Rogen comedy “The Interview,” purportedly by North Korea, before the rest of America got screwed by Russian hackers interfering with the 2016 election.
The latest victim of online intrusion? Streaming megalith Netflix, who according to Deadline are being held to ransom by a hacker known as The Dark Overlord. Mr. Overlord claimed over the weekend to have obtained the bulk of the new season of one of Netflix’s crown jewels, “Orange Is The New Black,” released the first episode onto file-sharing sites, and threatened to drop a further nine episodes if the company didn’t pay him a substantial ransom.
Netflix acknowledged the situation, releasing a statement saying that “A production vendor used by several major TV studios had its security compromised and the appropriate law enforcement authorities are involved” (i.e. the episodes were stolen not from Netflix itself, but from a company called Larson Studios, involved in audio post-production). The ransom seemingly wasn’t paid, as the hacker(s) went on to release nine further episodes of the show after Netflix, who stopped responding to the Dark Overlord, failed to pay.
According to site DataBreaches.net, this actually happened a while back — before Christmas, in fact — but the extorter went nuclear with the leak over the weekend, with more threatened from other shows taken by the hacker, including “NCIS Los Angeles,” “Brockmire” and “New Girl.” To be honest, this was sort of a dumb plan: for one, the vast majority of the shows and films that The Dark Overlord acquired were released already, for another, the Netflix model is subscription-led, and partly appeals because it’s much easier than searching torrent sites, and while we’re sure a few hardcore fans will seek the episodes out, Netflix likely weren’t sweating too much, or at least enough to pay a hefty sum.
Still, it’s a reminder of how fragile online security is, and the potentially devastating results as/when a bigger fish is caught by one of these hackers. Two-step verification, people!