Flying in the face of reported advice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Disney CEO Bob Iger says his company will not pay up the ransom demanded by hackers of an upcoming Disney movie in order to avoid early release.
On Monday, Iger told employees that hackers threatened to release the movie in increments if the company did not pay the ransom demand of an undisclosed amount in Bitcoin. Iger did not reveal the name of the hacked film in question to employees, but Deadline reported on Monday afternoon that it had learned the film was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, set to be released on May 26th.
This latest hack comes after two major intrusions into Hollywood information technology (IT) systems last month, including the leak of the upcoming fifth season of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black (Netflix has not yet confirmed the authenticity of these episodes) and the hack of United Talent Agency's email system and confidential data. In response to these and other attacks on Hollywood's IT infrastructure, the FBI's advice has been to "pay the ransom," sources told The Hollywood Reporter. In all previous hacking cases, the Reporter noted, the ransom demanded has been less than $80,000; in California, a ransom must be over $50,000 for the United States Attorney's office to prosecute. The FBI reportedly will also not investigate most ransoms under $50,000.
An FBI spokesperson refuted the claim that the agency had advised Hollywood companies to pay ransoms. "The FBI does not encourage payment of ransom as it keeps the criminals in business," spokesperson Laura Eimiller told the Reporter. "Of course, the individual victim must weigh their options."
Regardless, why might Disney have decided it was not worth their while to pay up? According to the Reporter, sources say Iger conveyed that the ransom was a "huge sum." But perhaps the money wasn't so much the deterring factor as the precedent it would set: Netflix did not pay its hacker last month, and UTA has employed a team of security experts to investigate its recent hack.