Culture

Hackers Target Disney, Using 'Pirates of the Caribbean' 5

YouTube screenshot of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean film.

Real-life pirates have reportedly stolen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and are threatening to release the film unless Disney pays a hefty ransom in Bitcoin.

Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger said hackers claiming to have access to an upcoming Disney film threatened to release it unless the studio paid a ransom. Iger did not release the name of the film, but said Disney is refusing to pay and that the studio is working with federal investigators. Iger’s comments came during a town hall meeting with ABC employees in New York City, as multiple sources told The Hollywood Reporter.

Deadline reported that the movie in question was indeed Jerry Bruckheimer’s fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which is scheduled for release next Friday, May 26. Online rumors had suggested that a work print of Star Wars: The Last Jedi had been pirated and was being held for ransom, but days later the rumor was outed as a hoax.

But a more serious threat surfaced earlier this month, when a hacker known as “The Dark Overlord” acquired ten episodes of the forthcoming season 5 of Orange Is the New Black, set to release on June 9. The hacker threatened to release the film if Netflix did not pay, and when the company indeed refused, The Dark Overlord released the episodes on BitTorrent.

The Pirates hackers demanded a huge sum in the online currency Bitcoin. They threatened to release five minutes of the film at first and then further 20-minute chunks of the film until their demands are met.

Hector Monsegur, director of security assessments for Rhino Security Labs and a former computer hacker who was arrested and became an FBI informant, told Deadline that “attribution is probably the hardest thing the FBI is dealing with here.”

The FBI has to track such attacks backwards, which means that “it’s nearly impossible because you have various hackers from pretty much anywhere,” Monsegur explained. “Also, they are aware of the 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.”

Interestingly, Monsegur suggested that the hackers may not have stolen the film directly from Disney. He said such large companies “have very good security teams but you have all these vendors and small production companies which don’t have great security and probably don’t have the budget to focus on their own security so hackers get in pretty easily.”

Following the notorious Ransomware hack this past weekend which infected computers in 100 countries, such threats are increasingly real. While the Star Wars hack was a hoax, the Orange Is the New Black hack was real, and reports suggest that this Pirates hack is also a legitimate threat.

Since Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), the franchise featuring Johnny Depp has netted $3.72 billion in worldwide box office receipts. The full impact of releasing Dead Men Tell No Tales early remains unclear.

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