Variety was the first to report that the anonymous hacker “The Dark Overlord” tweeted an indirect and cryptically worded blackmail threat to ABC, the television network, on Friday morning. With the tweet, The Dark Overlord threatened to leak an as of yet undisclosed show from ABC’s schedule unless he is paid the ransom money he asks for.
What makes this threat so scary is that The Dark Overlord is the same hacker who stole and leaked the first 10 episodes of the upcoming Season 5 of the Netflix original Orange is the New Black, which means we know he is capable and can likely (unless he only managed to get hold of Orange is the New Black and is just bluffing now) make good on the threat in a big way.
The tweet calling out ABC reads “American Broadcasting Company may be up next, ladies and gentlemen.”
American Broadcasting Company may be up next, ladies and gentlemen.
— thedarkoverlord (@tdohack3r) June 2, 2017
Admittedly, that is not an overt threat and could be interpreted any number of ways. According to Deadline, though, The Dark Overlord sent out another tweet on Monday that is decidedly more sinister and made it more clear he had additional leaks in store if the networks did not pay up. The tweet read “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.”
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 (@tdohack3r) April 29, 2017
The flowery language The Dark Overlord uses in his tweets makes it clear he is out to make light of his own insidious crime, and another tweet reported by the Deadline piece but deleted since being posted gloats about the illegitimately obtained power he wields over these huge TV studios.
“Hello, this is thedarkoverlord (@tdohack3r) here to deliver a message,” the post read. “We’re back again. Did you miss us? Of course, you did. We’re willing to bet Netflix did as well. Speaking of which, Netflix clearly received our message considering they’ve made public statements… 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 1-10 of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Season 5 after many lengthy discussions at the office where alcohol was present. Do note that there are 13 episodes. However, we were so early when we acquired the copies that post hadn’t gotten around to Episodes 11-13. Perhaps Netflix will consider releasing the season earlier now that the cat’s out of the bag?”
It’s scary stuff, and the threat of having the hundreds of hours of work put in by countless crew and cast members wasted is bound to make many studios at least take serious notice.
— Vamshi Krishna (@i_vamshi) May 6, 2017
Season 5 of Orange is the New Black is set to be released on Netflix on June 9, and the fact that the episodes were made available for pirating weeks early will likely end up costing the service tens of millions of dollars in subscribers who would have signed up to watch the show. Cable networks like ABC stand to lose even more money; many of the people who would have watched Orange is the New Black Season 5 are already signed up and therefore would not have actually paid any more money than they already do, but ABC programming makes its money from ads and is therefore a total loss if people do not tune in to watch.
Apparently, The Dark Overlord released to online hacking reporting site Databreaches a list of 37 series for which it had secured unreleased episodes. The series included CBS’ NCIS Los Angeles, IFC’s Portlandia, ABC’s The Middle, and a show starring Jason Alexander (better known as George from Seinfeld) that has yet to receive an official name or be assigned to a network.
A previous Variety article notes that the organization The Dark Overlord works with originally threatened Larson Studios, the post-production house they stole the Orange is the New Black episodes from, last June. Like they would later do with Netflix, they said they would release the episodes if they did not receive a certain payment. Larson studios balked at the threat.
The article also declares that the threats to the TV studios are probably just publicity stunts. The Dark Overlord generally hacks and threatens health providers and other organizations that stand to get in significant legal trouble if the private information they store were to be made public. Entertainment content producers do not fit that bill, but threats to them are quickly thrust onto a public stage, and it seems The Dark Overlord may be trying to bolster his reputation by having his hacks covered in the news. This probably does not bode well for ABC if it is true, as the scenario would make it very unlikely that The Dark Overlord would make a threat he could not follow through with — it would damage the credibility of his future threats.
What do you think ABC should do when the inevitable threat to release content is issued? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images, Le-Mon/iStock, and ABC]