Disney’s Iger says hackers claim to hold movie ransom

Christopher Palmeri
Bloomberg News

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said hackers claim to have stolen an unreleased film and are threatening to distribute it online if they aren’t paid a ransom. The company is declining to do so.

Iger made the comments Monday in a town-hall meeting with ABC staff before the network’s fall season presentation to advertisers Tuesday in New York. A Disney spokesman declined to comment on the threat.

The alleged extortion attempt is related to a string of cybercrimes that are rattling industries from financial services to health care. Last week cyberattackers infected more than 200,000 computers around the world with so-called ransomware, encrypting their files and demanding payment to release the data. Hospitals in the U.K. were among the targets of what one government official there called the “biggest criminal cyberattack in history.”

The threat received by Disney is similar to one encountered last month by Netflix Inc., in which hackers stole unreleased episodes of the company’s hit “Orange is the New Black.” Netflix refused to pay, and a hacker calling himself (or herself, or themselves) TheDarkOverlord put the stolen material on the Pirate Bay for anyone with a torrent client to download. Variety and other outlets reported that hackers apparently obtained the show through a breach at a post-production company. That hacker also threatened other film entertainment companies, including Fox, National Geographic and Disney’s ABC.

In the most notable cyber attack targeting Hollywood, hackers in 2014 infiltrated Sony Pictures’ computer system and released thousands of documents including credit card information, social security numbers and health records of employees. The FBI said North Korea was behind the hack, which caused the movie studio to initially cancel the release of “The Interview,” about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote about Iger’s comments earlier on Monday. Deadline reported that the Disney film that was allegedly stolen by hackers is “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” scheduled for release on May 26.

Disney derives half its profit from media networks. Parks make up about 21 percent, with film and consumer products generating the rest.