A Teenage Hacker Ring Stole Millions in Army and Xbox Tech

By Adam Clark Estes on at

The US Department of Justice just charged a group of four young hackers with breaking into both Microsoft and US Army servers and stealing ($100m) (£60m) worth of everything from unreleased games to military training software. Two of the hackers have already pleaded guilty.

This is interesting news for a couple of reasons. For one, it's pretty incredible that four young men (the youngest is just 18) managed to steal so much intellectual property. But these guys were ambitious. Not only did they steal unreleased software and source code, they also snatched-up trade secrets and financial information. The hacker ring, called "Xbox Underground", even manufactured and sold a counterfeit Xbox One before the console was released. "These were extremely sophisticated hackers", assistant US attorney Ed McAndrew said on Tuesday. "Don't be fooled by their ages."

Case in point: the hackers breaching military servers. Apparently, they obtained flight-simulation software intended that the Army planned to use to train Apache helicopter pilots, after they broke into a Seattle-based video game studio. Now, we've known for a long time how the country's cyber-security is in jeopardy, but usually, we direct our anxiety towards the Chinese military, not teenagers. (Three out of the four hackers were teens when authorities were tipped off in 2011.)

This is only the beginning of the crackdown. The two hackers who've already pleaded guilty to counts of computer fraud and copyright infringement face up to five years in prison. The other two face will likely have it worse if they don't co-operate — and we know that the government offers leniency to those who co-operate. Since authorities think there are at least six other individuals involved, the situation's primed for someone to snitch. [Guardian]

Image via Microsoft