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HBO/'Game of Thrones' hack exposes need for enforcement, teamwork among industries

August 4, 2017

Another day, another high-profile cyberattack. But this week’s hacking of 1.5 terabytes of data from cable giant HBO exposed some of the network’s crown entertainment jewels, including the top-rated “Game of Thrones” series.

While some say stronger deterrent laws are needed to stop such attacks, Jamil Jaffer, founder of the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, said the law can’t always be counted on “to solve what ultimately is a national economic and national security problem.”

Hackers knowingly violate existing laws, and that’s not going to change, said Jaffer, who recommends industry work more closely with government agencies.

“A massive amount of high-end intellectual property is walking out the back doors of tons of companies,” he said. “Companies need to recognize the threats that nation-state and non-nation-state actors pose, and they need to figure out what to do about it.”

In the HBO hack, episodes of “Ballers” and “Room 104” were uploaded online, and a script said to be the fourth episode of the new season of “Game of Thrones” was posted, with a promise by the hackers of more stolen material to be released. There was no ransom request reported, but the hacker signed off with an ominous, “HBO is falling.”

“I actually don’t think this is terribly unusual, unfortunately,” said Sandra Aistars, a clinical professor at Scalia Law School and director of George Mason’s Arts and Entertainment Advocacy Clinic. “Movies and TV shows and other popular entertainment content is hacked frequently, sometimes with monetary goals but other times with the interest of showing off to the hacker community.”

Aistars said that the popularity of a show like “Game of Thrones” increases the risk of hacking. But that doesn’t mean only high-profile targets should protect themselves.

“We are all increasingly vulnerable to hacking in our daily lives, no matter which industry we work in,” she said. “But regardless of the strength of the laws, without targeted enforcement, which involves collaboration with the affected company, these crimes will be hard to solve.”

Sandra Aistars can be reached at saistars@gmu.edu or 703-993-8158.

Jamil Jaffer can be reached at jjaffer@gmu.edu or 703-993-5620.

For more information, contact Buzz McClain at 703-727-0230 or bmcclai2@gmu.edu.

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George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 35,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.