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Nintendo Switch hacker faces jail time and a hefty fine

A hacker who repeatedly targeted video game giant Nintendo is facing jail time and a big fine for his wrongdoing.

Ryan Hernandez, a 21-year-old resident of Palmdale, California, recently pled guilty to federal crimes related to computer hacking, as well as possession of child pornography that was found on his digital devices.

Hernandez first targeted Nintendo in 2016 when he and an associate used a phishing technique to nab the credentials of an employee at the gaming company, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

This enabled the pair to access and download confidential Nintendo files related to its consoles and games that included information about the Nintendo Switch device ahead of its official release in 2017. The hackers then leaked that information to the public.

The DOJ said that in October 2017, following an investigation into the hack that led to Hernandez, he and his parents promised to refrain from any further malicious activity. They also came to an understanding that any further misdemeanors of this nature would have serious repercussions.

Despite the warning, “from at least June 2018 to June 2019” Hernandez resumed his hacking activities, accessing a number of Nintendo servers and taking confidential information about various popular video games, gaming consoles, and developer tools.

Under his online moniker of “RyanRocks,” he even went on platforms such as Twitter and Discord to brag about his exploits, while at the same time passing on some of the stolen data, the DOJ said.

Hernandez also ran his own online chat forum in which he and others “discussed Nintendo products and shared information about possible Nintendo network vulnerabilities, and on which he shared some of the confidential information he had stolen.”

In June 2019, FBI agents paid the hacker another visit. An examination of seized computer equipment turned up thousands of confidential Nintendo files, along with illegal pornographic content gathered from the internet.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, both the prosecutors and defense attorneys are recommending a three-year prison term for Hernandez. But the judge in the case could decide that the crimes committed by Hernandez deserve the statutory maximums of five years’ jail time for computer fraud and abuse, and 20 years for possession of child pornography.

The DOJ said the offender has agreed to pay $259,323 in restitution to Nintendo, and will also register as a sex offender.

Nintendo has not yet made any public comment on the case, though the episode surely serves as a warning to others considering engaging in similar practices.

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