Hacking Gang Charged With £62m Cyber Theft

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Crime doesn’t pay? Four hackers charged with stealing more than $100m of US army and Xbox technology

Four members of an international hacking ring are facing the wrath of the US judiciary after they were charged with hacking into the networks of the US army, and a number of leading technology firms.

The FBI alleged that the gang stole more than $100m (£62m) in intellectual property and other proprietary data. Two of the four have already pleaded guilty.

Hacking Charges

The four are charged with the alleged cyber theft of software and data related to the Xbox One gaming console and Xbox Live online gaming system. This apparently included games such as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” and “Gears of War 3”. The gang also reportedly sold proprietary software used to train military helicopter pilots.

“As the indictment charges, the members of this international hacking ring stole trade secret data used in high-tech American products, ranging from software that trains US soldiers to fly Apache helicopters to Xbox games that entertain millions around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.

fbi2Three of the four hackers seem to be American, with the fourth a Canadian resident. Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland; Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, of Washington, New Jersey; David Pokora, 22, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Austin Alcala, 18, of McCordsville, Indiana, have been charged.

The charges levelled at the four include conspiracies to commit computer fraud, copyright infringement, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and theft of trade secrets. The defendants have also charged with individual counts of aggravated identity theft, unauthorised computer access, copyright infringement and wire fraud.

Pokora and Nesheiwat have pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing in January 2015. The FBI said that Pokora’s plea is believed to be the first conviction of a foreign-based individual for hacking into US businesses to steal trade secret information.

Big name technology firms were victimised in the hacking spree, including Microsoft, Epic Games,, Valve, and Zombie Studios, as well as the US Army. The hackers reportedly gained entry SQL injection and the use of stolen usernames and passwords of company staff and their software development partners.

It seems that the hackers also alleged stole the source code, technical specifications and related information for Microsoft’s then-unreleased Xbox One gaming console. Also swiped was IP and proprietary data related to Xbox Live; Apache helicopter simulator software developed by Zombie Studios for the US Army; a pre-release version of Epic’s video game, “Gears of War 3;” and a pre-release version of Activision’s video game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.”

The hackers reportedly used this stolen information to create counterfeit versions of the Xbox One console, which they sold on eBay for $5,000 (£3,085) ahead of the machine’s official launch.

Global Arrests

The FBI said that in addition to those charged in the United States, an Australian citizen has been charged under Australian law for his alleged role in the conspiracy.

Authorities around the world continue to arrest and charge alleged hackers, as the global fight against hackers intensifies. In July the US arrested a man it believed was one of the most prolific hackers of retailers’ point of sale systems.

Earlier in the year, a man was arrested as part of an investigation into a breach of Canada’s tax authority that used the infamous Heartbleed bug. In March a 27-year old hacker who stole financial information under the nickname ‘Diabl0′ was arrested by Thai authorities in Bangkok.

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