WASHINGTON — After stealing and releasing 10 episodes of the fifth season of the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black a month before its planned premiere, a hacking group is threatening to release shows by four other networks unless the networks pay a ransom.
The future is being hacked, and there's no certainty where it might end. Hackers can steal an ever-growing number of secrets.
If they can steal unreleased television shows, could they also spoil the Oscar ceremony by stealing and threatening to reveal the winners ahead of time? How about announcements of Nobel prizes? Or product launches from Apple and Tesla?
Some people don't want to wait for staged announcements designed for collective suspense. Hackers seek to profit from that desire. For better or worse, they steal — and reveal — the future.
A previously unknown entity calling itself "thedarkoverlord" announced Saturday on Twitter that it had released the Orange Is the New Black episodes on the popular file-sharing site Pirate Bay because Netflix refused to pay a ransom.
Netflix said the matter was in the hands of "the appropriate law enforcement authorities." The hacking group hinted that its work was only beginning.
"Oh, what fun we're all going to have. We're not playing any games anymore," it said in a Twitter post.
The hackers said they have unreleased shows from ABC, Fox, National Geographic and IFC and would release them if ransoms were not paid.
The Netflix incident began Friday afternoon with a brief Twitter post from the "thedarkoverlord" saying, "Let's try to be a bit more direct, Netflix."
The post included a link to a site on Pirate Bay with the first episode of the stolen shows. Saturday morning, nine more episodes were posted. The fifth season of Orange Is the New Black has 13 episodes, but the hackers said they obtained the shows before the final episodes were available.
"It didn't have to be this way, Netflix. You're going to lose a lot more money in all of this than what our modest offer was. We're quite ashamed to breathe the same air as you," the hackers said in a statement posted on, then removed from, pastebin.com, a popular site for sharing text.
A website that follows developments related to piracy and file-sharing, Torrent Freak, said it had been in touch with the hackers and learned the episodes were stolen from Larson Studios, an audio post-production facility in Hollywood. Larson Studios could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Larson Studios also does post-production work on shows like Queen of the South, New Girl, and Chance for Fox 21 Television Studios, Glow from Netflix, Designated Survivor from ABC and Portlandia from IFC.
Torrent Freak published excerpts of a "contract" that the hackers sought to have Larson Studios sign in exchange for setting the ransom payment terms. The document called for a payment of 50 bitcoins, which is worth about $66,000.
Netflix was scheduled to release the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black on June 9.
The hackers did not say which programs from other networks it has obtained.