A hacking group known as The Dark Overlord that has been terrorizing Hollywood in recent months reportedly received $50,000 in ransom money before leaking the latest season of the popular Netflix series Orange Is the New Black in May.
Variety is reporting that the hacking collective confirmed that it demanded and received that ransom money from executives at Larson Studios, a Los Angeles-based studio that specializes in post-production audio work on Hollywood films and TV shows. The Dark Overlord has claimed that it stole dozens of film and TV titles from major studios such as Netflix, CBS, and Disney by hacking into a computer at Larson Studios.
Variety's latest issue features an exclusive interview with executives at Larson Studios, who speak at length about how they discovered that they had been hacked and the steps they took to try to prevent any of their clients' productions from being illegally leaked online. Studio vice president Jill Larson told Variety that the studio decided to comply with The Dark Overlord's ransom request of 50 Bitcoin—the electronic currency would have been worth roughly $50,000 at the time—to ensure that the group did not leak the stolen programming.
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However, while Variety says that The Dark Overlord confirms it received the ransom, the hackers reportedly still went ahead and leaked the fifth season of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black online last month because they claim that Larson Studios violated their agreement by involving the FBI. Larson Studios' employees say they contacted the FBI immediately after receiving the group's threats and ransom demands in December. The studio also says it did not initially tell its clients that their intellectual property had been stolen, simply because The Dark Overlord had warned them not to tell the big studios. But, the studios eventually found out about the hack after the collective began contacting them separately and demanding additional ransoms.
In addition to the Orange Is the New Black leak, the hacker group has claimed responsibility for the online leak of unreleased episodes of ABC's new competition reality series Funderdome, which is hosted by comedian Steve Harvey. Episodes of that show appeared on the media-sharing website Pirate Bay earlier this month before the series premiered on June 11. At the time, The Dark Overlord wrote in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that "Hollywood is under attack" and that the group would continue to release stolen programming.
At one point in May, the hackers claimed to have an unreleased Walt Disney feature film—supposedly the May release Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales—but Larson Studios never worked on that movie and Disney CEO Bob Iger denied that the film had been stolen.