The streaming giant refused to pay a ransom after a Hollywood production company was hacked
A rough-cut version of Orange is the New Black’s fifth season was posted illegally online over the weekend after hackers attempted to hold Netflix to ransom and the streaming giant refused to budge.
A hacking group known as ‘thedarkoverlord’ claims to have stolen hundreds of gigabytes of video content from the Hollywood audio post-production company Larson Studios. Included in the data were as yet unreleased seasons of TV shows produced by Netflix, Fox, National Geographic and ABC.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, New Girl, and Orange is the New Black were among the list of programmes held for ransom by the hackers, with the group or individual responsible demanding Netflix pay 50 Bitcoin (€67,770) to regain control of the popular prison drama.
After Netflix refused to respond to the group’s “modest” ransom, the hackers posted links on Twitter to torrents of the episodes. In a statement posted on Pastebin, thedarkoverlord wrote:
“[...] Netflix clearly received our message considering they’ve made public statements and was one of the first people to download a fresh copy of their own property, yet they continue to remain unresponsive.
“With this information in mind (and the fact that leaving people on cliffhangers isn’t fun) we’ve decided to release Episodes 2-10 of Orange is the New Black Season 5 after many lengthy discussion at the office where alcohol was present. [...] Perhaps Netflix will consider releasing the season earlier now that the cat’s out of the bag?”
Netflix has remained mostly tight-lipped about the content theft, saying in a statement: “A production vendor used by several major TV studios had its security compromised and the appropriate law enforcement authorities are involved.”
The secretive company will be able to weather this leak relatively unphased; Netflix does not release viewership figures for any of its programmes, but more importantly, it has issued a stark warning that it will not pay out when held to ransom.
The message Netflix, a global streaming giant with almost 100m paying subscribers, is sending out to hackers makes it clear that threatening to dump a show online early will not see the thieves benefit financially. Had Netflix paid off the hackers, the ransom could have simply encouraged other hackers to attack their content, creating an escalating problem with more and more payouts.