The FBI has indicted four folks who it claims stole between $100 - $200 million in intellectual property from a handful of video game studios and the US Army.
Allegedly the materials stolen consisted of data related to the Xbox One prior to its release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and "proprietary software used to train military helicopter pilots." It was also noted that the defendants hacked into Valve's network.
The indictment consisted of 18 counts of criminal activity including "conspiracies to commit computer fraud, copyright infringement, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and theft of trade secrets." Apparently the hackers are being charged as a conspiracy in some cases and individuals in others.
According to court records dating back from January 2011, the defendants "accessed and stole unreleased software, software source code, trade secrets, copyrighted and pre-release works and other confidential and proprietary information. Members of the conspiracy also allegedly stole financial and other sensitive information relating to the companies - but not their customers - and certain employees of such companies." The indictment also alleged that the conspiracy was planning to sell the stolen information for profit.
Two of the four folks indicted - the 28 year-old Sanadodeh Nesheiwat of New Jersey and Ontario's own David Pokora, 22 - have pleaded guilty to these charges, while Maryland resident Nathan Leroux, 20, and the only 18 year-old Austin Alcala of Indiana haven't.
Nesheiwat and Pokora are scheduled for sentencing on 13th January, 2015.
Pakora is "believed to be the first conviction of a foreign-based individual for hacking into U.S. businesses to steal trade secret information," according the FBI's announcement.
Of course, this almost happened before when a German teenager managed to steal the Half-Life 2 source code and regretfully leaked it to his friends. Lucky for him, he was caught in his homeland and given the chance for rehabilitation rather than several years in prison. He now works in security. It doesn't sound like the hackers here will be so lucky.
In fact, according to the indictment, Nesheiwat and Pokora are facing up to five years in prison and a potential fine of at least $250K.
The indictment also noted that an Australian citizen has been charged under Australian law for their alleged role in the conspiracy. This is in reference to Dan "SuperDaE" Henry, who attempted to sell a leaked Xbox One kit - then called Durango - on eBay. He was raided by the FBI for his role in that in February 2013, but Microsoft later distanced itself from the raid.
"The American economy is driven by innovation. But American innovation is only valuable when it can be protected," said assistant attorney general Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. "Today's guilty pleas show that we will protect America's intellectual property from hackers, whether they hack from here or from abroad."
"Electronic breaking and entering of computer networks and the digital looting of identities and intellectual property have become much too common," said US attorney Charles M. Oberly III of the District of Delaware. "These are not harmless crimes, and those who commit them should not believe they are safely beyond our reach."
Epic declined to comment on this story and we've requested a comment from Zombie, Valve and Microsoft on the matter. We'll update should any party add its take.
You can read the entire indictment below (via Kotaku).