The United States Department of Justice has charged four hackers with computer fraud and copyright infringement for stealing over $100 million worth of intellectual property and proprietary data related to Xbox. The stolen data includes pre-release copies of games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Apache helicopter training software being developed for the U.S. Army (via The Guardian).
Two of the four hackers, David Pokora and Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, have pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement. The 18-count indictment also charges Nathan Leroux and Austin Alcala with participating in the conspiracy, along with an unnamed Australian national. The investigation is ongoing, and authorities claim that half a dozen other individuals may be involved.
The hackers, ranging in age from 18 to 28, are alleged to be part of a group called the Xbox Underground. The group gained access to the computer networks of various gaming companies, including the Seattle-based Zombie Studios, which had been contracted by the U.S. Army to develop flight simulation training software for Apache helicopters.
Once inside they stole copies of unreleased software, source code, trade secrets, and financial information about the various companies. Supposedly the group stole plans for the Xbox One and sold counterfeit copies prior to the console’s release.
The FBI began tracking the group in 2011 with the cooperation of the gaming companies when a confidential informant tipped them off. Pokora, the group’s alleged leader and a Canadian national, was taken into custody in March at the border crossing in Lewiston, New York. His plea is believed to the first actual conviction of a foreign individual for hacking into American businesses and stealing trade secrets, setting important precedents in a time of mounting paranoia that our companies, journalistic entities, and government agencies are under constant, digital assault from foreign agents.