November 20, 2019 9:17 pm

Disney+ not hacked: demand caused post-launch issues

Disney not hacked, just unprecedented demand

There’s a big question bouncing around the Internet: did Disney+ get hacked amid the day one demand and technical issues?

It was one of the questions on people’s lips heading into the Recode Conference. So it comes as some surprise that Disney’s Direct to Consumer head honcho Kevin Mayer only talked about demand and code issues.

The good Disney+ stuff

From the conference, Mr. Mayer made it clear that the demand for Disney+ far exceeded expectations. We’ve already dug into the massive demand for the service and how it translated into 10 million new subscribers.


The real surprise here is Disney’s surprise at the demand. It’s Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars. Plus, people love to stream. The only surprise should have been that BAMtech didn’t perform.

The bad Disney+ stuff

Mr. Mayer was willing to dig into the technical issues the service encountered post-launch. He stated that the demand led to the uncovering of architectural issues in the code, and he insisted the issues were being fixed.

How was it possible to miss this architectural error? The Disney+ service has been live for months in over a million homes across the Netherlands. Additionally, live streaming across ESPN apps — including the MLB and WWE apps — uses the same technology. This tech was as tried and tested as humanly possible.

The ugly Disney+ stuff

Once Mr. Mayer was offstage, a spokesperson had the difficult job of answering hacking and data breach questions. However, they did a good job explaining.


Billions of usernames and passwords leaked from previous breaches at other companies, pre-dating the launch of Disney+, are being sold on the web.

Courtesy of Deadspin, Disney spokesperson at Recode Conference

Breaking down what Disney is saying:

  • The services new users used old email and password combinations
  • These combinations were stolen from other services, pre-Disney+
  • When using these combinations, hackers swooped in and stole vulnerable accounts.

It’s viable, but the problem seems isolated to Disney+ users. That is, unless hackers have no interest in Netflix and Apple TV+ accounts, despite being openly available from previous breaches.

If what Disney says is accurate, then due to the volume of reported issues, this was a coordinated effort by hackers rather than random. Or at least it seems that way.


What is a simpler scenario: thousands of brand-new Disney+ users’ accounts were immediately stolen, or Disney+ demand resulted in massive hacks?

They’re both unlikely scenarios. It’s unclear what happened, but one thing is certain: we’re changing all our passwords!

Disney+ hauled in so many subscribers to start, which is an encouraging sign. But it’s going to be vital to fix these tech bugs moving forward — regardless of their origin point.

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