Most people know that the wildly popular prison drama “Orange Is the New Black” isn’t on a network. It isn’t a ‘cable only’ show, either. “OITNB” is a Netflix original series, one that has proven so popular that it is rated in the same league as the most watched shows on cable. That’s right. The company that got off the ground sending DVDs via snail mail is now producing its own show that competes head to head with TV’s established heavy hitters like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and TNT’s “Major Crimes”.

The digital television-giant’s journey to success has been an interesting one:

  • Founded in 1997, Netflix moved to its monthly subscription model in 1999 – users could borrow unlimited rentals (or as many as would come in the mail in 30 days) at a flat monthly rate.
  • 2007: the company began digitally streaming movies and TV series.
  • By 2010, the list of Netflix subscribers tops 20 million.
  • On September 18th, 2011, CEO Reed Hastings takes a risk and splits the company in two – DVD-mailing services are now provided by Qwikster, with the Netflix portion of the company specializing in streaming only. The decision wasn’t a popular one: Netflix stock, which had been trading in the low-40s—immediately began to drop—getting as low as $7.78 per share on 9/28/12.
  • Netflix eventually eliminated the Qwikster name, shifting its focus solely to streaming.
  • 2012: the company premiers its first original programming with a series called “Lillyhammer”, which is followed by the more well-known “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” in 2013.
  • Netflix’s streaming service continues to dominate, with latest stock quotes of $152.20 representing almost 20 times the bottom stock price.

It was a bold decision to first split out and then do away with the more established business model (mailing DVDs), and there was some controversy at the time around the fact that Netflix lost some of its slower-adopting customers when the snail mail stopped going out. However, the digital distribution turned out to be the winning formula in the end. In 2017, it’s hard to imagine our lives without streaming television, and even those of us limited to (*sigh*) basic cable are aware of series like OITNB, their popularity, and their rabid followers.

That popularity, combined with its digital distribution model may have made Orange is the New Black “low-hanging fruit” just too sweet to resist for a hacker (or group of hackers) known as “the Dark Overlord”.

The hackers claimed to have obtained 10 episodes of the show and demanded what they call a “modest” ransom from Netflix in return for not making them immediately available online to viewers. And the group warns that this will not the last of their digital television extortion.

“We’re not quote done yet, though,” said a tweeted statement purportedly from the Overlord.  “We’re calling you out: ABC, National Geographic, Fox, IFC, and of course Netflix, still. There’s more Netflix on the feasting menu soon… in addition to the other studios… Enjoy the fruits of _our_ labour.”

Major news outlets, including NBC, covered the story over the weekend:

On April 29th, when Netflix had “remain(ed) unresponsive”, the hackers released 10 of the upcoming Season 5 episodes more than a month ahead of the planned June 9th release. But it could have been worse: the hackers reported that

“We were so early when we acquired the copies that post hadn’t gotten around to Episodes 11-13.”

(“Post” is an industry term and shorthand for “post production”.) Netflix confirmed  that a production company also used by several major TV studios “had its security compromised” and that “the appropriate law enforcement authorities are involved.”

More leaks are threatened to follow unless ransom is paid.

“Our offer(s) are still on the table — for now,” the group said.

And the threats aren’t just idle, either. Industry blogger says Dark Overlord provided them with “a preview of some of the material, which included XXX: Return of Xander Cage (2017), Bill Nye Saves The World (Season 1), and Orange Is The New Black (Season 5).”  More shows listed as being potentially released illegally ahead of their official airings were included in a 37-title list, and included CBS’s NCIS Los Angeles, IFC’s Portlandia, ABC’s The Middle and an untitled Jason Alexander project.

While early bird viewing may not seem like the worst thing in the world (although fans who took advantage of the preview are expressing extreme frustration over having to wait months for the remaining three episodes), USA Today notes that  “pirated copies of Orange could dent Netflix’s subscriber growth and the company’s stock price.” Although these seem to be holding steady for the moment, it’s not hard to imagine that more widespread leaks would encourage fans considering signing up for the service to wait and see if the series they crave shows up for free online, with a little help from the Dark Overlord.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself – “Wow, I’m really glad I’m not the CEO of a large company that creates and distributes extremely popular television programming digitally!” But if you think this kind of cyber-piracy has nothing to do with you and your business, consider this: Netflix itself wasn’t hacked—it was a third party vendor conducting post-production work that was targeted and compromised. And the digital distribution technology that put Netflix on the map was also the weak link that allowed the Dark Overlord access.

While it’s (of course) extremely important to pay attention to your internal security, Netflix’s woes demonstrate the necessity for all businesses to think security up and down the production chain as well.

The technology we generally take for granted (of course I should be able to access my email from my phone inside a moving car!) makes data available not only to us, but also to others who might not have our best interests in mind. Any partner entrusted with your vital information needs the same, or better, security technology as your business in place to prevent hackers like the Dark Overlord from plucking the fruits of your labor.

5i Solutions, Inc. is in business to ensure our clients can access the power of their data – it’s not enough to have information, you need to know what you have, where it is, how to get to it, and who has access, 24/7/365.  It’s the key to efficiency and making better business decisions. We know that information is precious to our clients, and that keeping it from the hands of those who would misuse it is just as important as getting it into the hands of those who need it.

That’s where 5i Solutions can help.

5i Solutions takes your security seriously. Our data hosting and super-secure Cloud Vault offer encryption, network security, and key management. We provide identity verification and access control. Threat management, penetration testing, monitoring, logging, and on-demand reports to ensure the continued integrity of your data.

5i Solutions can build a custom solution for you for less than you might think. So contact us today — don’t wait for someone to pirate your juicy data and hold it for ransom.

5i Solutions.  One single, secure point of intake, access, and storage.  One singular solution.

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