HBO says hack is no threat

These days it doesn’t seem like the question is “will someone get hacked?” but, instead, “who will get hacked next?” The answer, this time, is HBO. The premium cable provider and streaming content provider admitted last week that hackers had found their way into the company’s computer system.

According to the report, the hackers stole “proprietary information,” though the company says the hackers did not make it into the email system. CEO Richard Plepler told employees that he did not believe “our email system as a whole has been compromised.”

The hackers, in turn, said they made it into HBO’s “internal network” before saying they had posted stolen information on the web. Some news networks have said the site in question offered links to downloadable episodes of multiple current HBO shows, including Ballers and Insecure, as well as some scripts for the mega-popular Game of Thrones. The Associated Press tried to access the site to prove or disprove the claims, but the site was not loading two days after the leak was reported.

The AP credited good work by Google for pulling links to the site and others that infringe on creative copyrights.

Some in the entertainment media were reminded of the massive Sony hack back in 2014, a situation that reverberated throughout Hollywood after employee emails and films were leaked online. Then there was another hack earlier this year when episodes of Netflix programs landed online. In that case, Netflix was contacted to pay a ransom. When the company declined, the hackers made good on their promise to post the content on the web.

At this point, HBO has avoided the negative public relations headlines that come with some high-profile hacks. No customer data was reportedly stolen, and no security issues were created for customers.

But that doesn’t mean everyone will get that message. Some people, perhaps many, will hear “hack” and “HBO” in the same sentence or read the words in the same headline, and that could create a PR problem for the company. To avoid this, HBO could launch an aggressive, positive PR campaign that puts the facts out there, explaining, clearly and concisely, that the “hack” was no big deal and that, most importantly, their valued customers were not impacted in any way.

Oh, “…and be sure to check out the latest episodes of Game of Thrones and Ballers, coming this Sunday.” Never, ever miss a chance for a plug.

Robert Gillings is an award winning writer, producer, actor architectural designer, philosopher and financial consultant.