Will yet another episode of Game of Thrones’ seventh season — this time, the finale — be unofficially released to the public prior to its airdate?
If the hackers who recently contacted Mashable make good on their threat, the answer might well be yes.
The site reports that someone(s) calling themselves “Mr. Smith Group” provided login information and passwords for many HBO social media accounts, including the official Game of Thrones and Westworld Twitter handles, and warned the premium cabler to “Be ready for GOT S& E6 &E7 as soon as possible.”
Episode 6 — the season’s penultimate hour — did surface online five days ahead of its Aug. 20 broadcast, but not because of a hack: Spain’s HBO Nordic accidentally made the installment available on-demand for an hour, which was enough time for some to record the episode and post it to sites like YouTube and Instagram. (The recordings in question on those platforms were eventually removed.)
HBO is not commenting on the newest iteration of the threat, referring everyone instead to a statement released after stolen Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes were posted online:
We are not in communication with the hacker and we’re not going to comment every time a new piece of information is released. It has been widely reported that there was a cyber incident at HBO. The hacker may continue to drop bits and pieces of stolen information in an attempt to generate media attention. That’s a game we’re not going to participate in. Obviously, no company wants their proprietary information stolen and released on the internet. Transparency with our employees, partners, and the creative talent that works with us has been our focus throughout this incident and will remain our focus as we move forward. This incident has not deterred us from ensuring HBO continues to do what we do best.
In early August, Episode 4 was shared on Reddit via a Google Drive link that was eventually taken down. The leak started at the series’ Indian distributor Star India; four people later were arrested for criminal breach of trust and computer-related offenses in connection with the leak. All four either work or worked for Prime Focus Technologies, a data-management vendor used by Star India.
Throughout, the leaks have not adversely affected viewership: Episode 4 nabbed an audience of 10.2 million, which briefly stood as the series’ most watched episode until Episode 5, “Eastwatch,” attracted 10.72 million viewers.