Update: It looks like it was all a hoax. Disney’s Bob Iger told Yahoo Finance, “To our knowledge we were not hacked. We had a threat of a hack of a movie being stolen. We decided to take it seriously but not react in the manner in which the person who was threatening us had required. We don’t believe that it was real and nothing has happened” The movie opens today.
The original article follows.
By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Take what you can, give nothing back. That’s the motto of Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. But on the eve of the release of the fifth chapter of the Pirates saga, Dead Men Tell No Tales, it’s also become the slogan of a real life drama between Disney and hackers, who claim to have pirated the upcoming blockbuster, and have threatened to release it online unless the Mouse House pays up.
“Who is next on the list? FOX, IFC, NAT GEO, and ABC. Oh, what fun we’re all going to have. We’re not playing any games anymore.” – thedarkoverlord on Twitter
This is the second high profile property hackers have managed to pilfer from a studio in recent weeks, the first being the entire sixth season of Netflix’ Orange is the New Black. Netflix refused to pay, and the hackers released ten episodes to The Pirate Bay six weeks before its online premiere.
This time, however, the so-called “Dark Overlord” and his legion of hacking minions have chosen to go after bigger fish with Disney and their new Pirates of the Caribbean film, though the ransom is still the same: Pay a huge sum of bitcoin, or suffer the release of your movie online.
The threat is a very real one. You may recall back in 2014, Sony Pictures was hacked allegedly over The Interview, about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Several threats against any theater that chose to showcase the film prompted Sony to cancel the theatrical release, losing millions and forcing Sony head Amy Pascal to step down.
Then there was the case of The Expendables 3, which was leaked before its debut in the summer of 2014. And in spite of a legal battle against pirate sites to stop the leak, the film flopped at the box office because, in part, fans already knew where to find it online. But adding a ransom is new.
All of this comes on the heels of a major world-wide hacking late last week.
“Remember back in the day when movies would leak online and they would go to a pirate bay? Now there has been a shift with the advent of ransomware so (these companies) are getting demands to pay for their own [intellectual property]. Any studio is going to have a problem moving forward protecting their IPs.” – Hector Monsegure to Deadline
In spite of the fact that the hackers remained true to their word with Netflix, Disney CEO Robert Iger refuses to be terrorized, and is instead enlisting the aid of the FBI to bring the scalawags to justice. But even though the FBI is involved, security experts believe that it will be nearly impossible to find the hacker collective who have threatened to release the movie.
“You have various hackers from pretty much anywhere,” says Hector Monsegure, a former hacker and now Director of Security Assessments for Rhino Security Labs. “they are aware of techniques to track them down. So you could have an Egyptian hacker who uses Russian software, so it looks like it’s Russian, but is actually from Egypt. Attribution is probably the hardest thing the FBI is dealing with here.”
On top of that, Monsegure says that while studios tend to have rock solid security, it’s their third party vendors which tend to be the weak linking the chain. “All these vendors and small production companies don’t have great security and probably don’t have the budget to focus on it, so hackers get in pretty easily,” Monsegure said.
Faced with this very real threat, Iger is playing a high stakes game here. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has already brought in nearly $4 billion in box office revenue, and Dead Men Tell No Tales is believed to be $70 million over its $250 million budget. Tack on marketing costs, and Iger is looking at nearly a half billion dollar gamble in refusing to pay the bitcoin ransom. The race against time with the FBI puts the fate of the franchise in peril.
And it’s anyone’s guess if the hackers got away with more than just the Pirates sequel. There was a rumor that the hackers had managed to get a pre-release copy of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, at least that rumor has been discredited.
Monsegure summarizes that the threat is a very real one, and if they’ve managed to steal intellectual property from both Netflix and Disney, it’s likely they’ll make good on threatening the others on their list, as well, and there may not be much that can be done about it. “Any studio is going to have a problem moving forward protecting their IPs,” he said.
And parlay isn’t going to help them, either.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opens May 26, 2017.