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Four upcoming episodes of the fifth season of the popular television show ‘Game of Thrones’ have been leaked online.

Copies of the episodes first appeared on torrent websites between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm EDT on Saturday, according to Variety. As of 5:00 pm EDT on Sunday, the episodes had been downloaded approximately 1.7 million times.

At first, the leak prompted fears that HBO had been hacked, which would have recalled last year’s Sony breach in which hackers stole and subsequently leaked intellectual property from Sony Pictures online.

But HBO has since set the record straight.

“Sadly, it seems the leaked four episodes of the upcoming season of ‘Game of Thrones’ originated from within a group approved by HBO to receive them,” the company said in a statement. “We’re actively assessing how this breach occurred.”

The confirmed leaks appear to have originated from a “screener,” or a disc of upcoming episodes that was sent to people for review prior to the episodes being released to the general public.

“These screeners are watermarked and require a legal agreement not to share the material,” explains Ken Westin, Senior Security Analyst at Tripwire. “However, these watermarks can be found and blurred so they cannot be identified when movies are then leaked.”

The digital watermark on the leaked ‘Game of Thrones’ screener has been blurred. Additionally, whereas HBO usually airs the episodes in 720p or 1080p, the leaked episodes are in 480p, or quality which is suitable for standard and not HD television.

“In many respects the same risks that a movie may go through mirrors that of customer data or other forms of intellectual property, where multiple parties may use the data and it can be passed around and accessed by many different parties,” Westin goes on to note.

News of this leak follows a study from anti-piracy solutions provider Irdeto that names ‘Game of Thrones’ as the world’s most pirated show.

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  • "…and not HD television." That phrase is redundant when you already refer to "standard" television in the same sentence.