Prime Focus Technology will undoubtedly have a happy independence day today. Maharashtra police has tracked down the culprits responsible for leaking episode 4 of season 7 of blockbuster HBO series Game of Thrones with Star India water mark that happened 10 days ago.
Police investigations done in Mumbai and Bangalore have shown that present and former employees of Prime Focus technology vendor for Star India were responsible for the leak. GOT airs in India on Star channels and its digital platform Hotstar.
“The information and material collected at the Bangalore office (of Prime Focus) and the Mumbai Police station were collated, studied and analysed by the police. On being satisfied, the investigating agency sufficiently established the role and involvement of various persons, both existing and former employees as well as outsiders,” Maharashtra special IGP (cyber) Brijesh Singh said in a statement yesterday, adding four persons were arrested on 14 August 2017.
The leak, which was one in the series of many leaks globally involving, GOT in recent times, happened in Prime Focus Technologies’ Bengaluru office.
The police said interrogations revealed that more than one person was involved, included outside people, who had access to the raw data of the TV series. All the accused persons were produced in a court and later sent to police custody till 21 August 2017.
During investigations, Prime Focus had come forward accepting the leak had happened at its end. It also lodged a police complaint against one of its serving employees alleging that he, along with another former employee and other persons, illegally gained access to the episode and leaked it online.
Three of them, identified as Abhishek Ghadiyal, Bhaskar Joshi and Alok Sharma are current employees of Prime Focus Technologies while the fourth Mohammed Suhail is a former staffer.
During its probe, the Mumbai police cyber crime wing discovered that Ghadiyal allegedly passed on his admin user ID and password to Suhail, who in turn leaked the episode on a Friday, two days before it was due for global release on Monday. A direct link to the MP4 file was found on Star India’s own distribution site, allowing people to download the episode for free before sharing it through other internet sources.
The firm started internal inquiries and found out that only a few select senior employees were given the admin ID and its passwords for storing and processing the data on the firm’s server. These internal servers can be accessed from Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Ghadiyal works as a test engineer, and Joshi and Sharma are assistants to Ghadiyal. Police have invoked sections 408 (criminal breach of trust by clerk or servant), and 34 (common intention) of the IPC, as well as 43 (damage to computer, computer system, etc) and 66 (computer related offences) of the IT Act.
During further investigations of Ghadiyal’s call detail records, it was found that he was in constant touch with Joshi and Sharma.
“We have arrested all the four and now we are going to interrogate them separately to know on whose instruction the episode was leaked, and who stood to benefit from it,” a senior officer close to the investigation said.
In a separate statement Star India said, “This was the first time that an incident of this nature has occurred. We are deeply grateful to the police for their swift and prompt action. We believe that valuable intellectual property is a critical part of the development of the creative industry and strict enforcement of the law is essential to protecting it.”
On 4 August 2017, The Verge had reported an unaired episode of GOT appeared on the Internet early that morning. While HBO’s servers were breached earlier that week, this episode leak happened at GOT producer HBO’s distribution partner in India, Star India, and the company’s logo appeared watermarked throughout the leaked episode.
According to The Verge, Smartprix spotted a direct link to the MP4 of the episode over at Star India’s own distribution site, allowing people to download GOT freely before sharing it with Google Drive links on Reddit.