Internal leaks in India threaten HBO as security concerns mount

HBO’s numerous hacking scandals have taken center stage in the media world recently, but it has been revealed this week that the company’s prized Game of Thrones content fell victim to an internal leak from a technology vendor supplying 21st Century Fox’s Indian pay TV arm Star India. There is no mention in the press yet of HBO asking for reparations from Star India, but it is likely HBO will have contract provisions for potentially massive payments from Star to cover this eventuality.

Current and former employees of Indian media software company Prime Focus Technologies (PFT) reportedly illegally breached obligations by leaking Episode 4 of Season 7 of the fantasy series online, bearing a watermark from Star India, three days before it was due to air.

The reputational damage from this leak could be irreversible for PFT and with the breach coming internally, the news is certainly food for thought for our vendor readers with growing concerns around content security. PFT’s gaffe is a stark reminder that protecting against internal security holes is as important as defending against external hacking threats.

Star India said in a statement, “We take this breach very seriously and have immediately initiated forensic investigations at our and the technology partner’s end to swiftly determine the cause. This is a grave issue and we are taking appropriate legal remedial action.”

It would not come as a shock if PFT’s contract was terminated or a portion of its services reduced in the coming weeks – along with some stringent changes to its hiring processes likely being pushed for by its client base. Damages may also be an issue.

PFT said it immediately launched an investigation, trawling extensive logs of its system, and gathered enough evidence to file a report with the DCP Cyber Cell of Mumbai Police – resulting in the arrest of four individuals this week. The motives behind the alleged activities remain unclear.

PFT, a subsidiary of Prime Focus, has been on Star India’s books since 2011 and it claims to manage 1.4 million hours of content for some of the world’s biggest broadcasters and studios.

There are some big names on PFT’s customer list that now hang in the balance following the leak, including Disney, 21st Century Fox-owned Star TV, Hearst, Warner Bros., CBS Television Studios, 20th Century Fox Television Studios, Lionsgate and its Starz Media subsidiary, Showtime, A+E Networks, Tru TV, HBO, IFC Films, FX Networks, Miramax, Sony Music, Google, YouTube, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Hooq, Viacom’s Voot, Indian Premier League and The Associated Press.

“We deeply regret and condemn this incident – and affirm our strong resolve to continue the fight against content related crimes in an effort to make the media and entertainment industry’s content more secure,” said PFT in a statement.

In another calamitous season of keeping secrets, HBO Spain leaked Episode 6 of Game of Thrones four days before its official release date, reportedly becoming available to subscribers in Spain for a one-hour period before being taken down.

This blunder naturally resulted in the episode being spread far and wide across torrent sites, and a similar slip also happened at HBO Nordics this week, but no light has yet been shone on what or who caused these latest European leaks.