HBO is supposedly trying to buy $250,000 worth of bitcoin to pay off hackers who breached the company’s database and stole sensitive and personal information including cast member’s contact details and scripts for future episodes. An email obtained by The Hollywood Reporter and verified by CNBC read:
“As a show of good faith on our side, we are willing to commit to making a bug bounty payment of $250,000 to you as soon as we can establish the necessary account and acquire bitcoin.”
According to CNBC, the email was sent by an IT employee from HBO on July 27, four days after the hacking group initially demanded a ransom from HBO. CNBC further noted that the employee who sent the email to the hacking group were very careful with their wording, referring to the offer of $250,000 as a bug bounty payment rather than a ransom payment. Various sources including an insider source close to CNBC revealed that the $250,000 offer is merely a delay tactic proposed by the HBO team.
The incident is particularly difficult for HBO because there is no guarantee that the hackers will not release the scripts, or personal information including the home addresses of the TV show’s actors, actresses, and producers after receiving the $250,000 ransom payment.
It is plausible that HBO will decide to not cooperate with the hackers considering there’s no guarantee the group won’t demand further ransom payments or still release the scripts for the show. However, it is also possible that HBO is actively investigating how they can obtain $250,000 in bitcoin. For corporations and organizations that have never dealt with bitcoin before, purchasing the digital currency on trading platforms such as Coinbase, GDAX and Gemini could be difficult.
On Coinbase or GDAX, the process of purchasing $250,000 in bitcoin is complex and likely to take over a week to complete. For example, if HBO decides to purchase bitcoin at Coinbase, a Know Your Customer (KYC) verification will be required to increase daily trading limits. Users on Kraken including prominent trader WhalePanda previously noted that they spent months trying to get their accounts approved by the Kraken team.
Been waiting for a month to get level 3 verification on Kraken too. (I like to have multiple exit strategies)
— WhalePanda (@WhalePanda) May 18, 2017
Assuming that HBO can have its account verified within a week, it will take additional time for the cash to clear and to receive bitcoin with a Coinbase wallet. In total, if Coinbase provides special support for HBO considering the urgent situation, it could take at least two weeks for HBO to obtain $250,000 in bitcoin.