Welcome to the News desk.
|British hacker jailed over £7m virtual gaming chips
| Ashley Mitchell
broke into Zynga's mainframe, transferred chips from employees to himself and
sold them through Facebook
British computer hacker who stole 400bn virtual gaming chips from an
international gaming company has been jailed for two years.
Ashley Mitchell, 29, broke into the Zynga
mainframe, stole the identity of two employees and transferred chips said to be
worth more than £7m to himself.
Mitchell, of Paignton, Devon, sold the chips
through Facebook to other gaming enthusiasts and used the money to fund his
online gambling addiction.
More than 50 million people a day play Zynga
games, including Mafia Wars, in which players run a virtual mob business, and
FarmVille, which allows users to create their dream farm. Players have to buy
chips for their virtual worlds. A black market in cut-price chips has grown up
on the internet.
Mitchell, a former council accounts clerk, made
£53,612 in two months after selling about a third of the chips.
But James Taghdissian, prosecuting, told Exeter crown court that Zynga
put its loss at $12m (£7m). "That is what they estimate they would have
lost if all the chips were successfully sold on," he said.
He said the
company became aware in August 2009 that large amounts of chips were vanishing
and suspected the two employees whose identities Mitchell had adopted. However,
investigators then realised the system had been hacked and narrowed the search
to Paignton. Mitchell's neighbours had their computers seized because he was
"piggy-backing" on their unsecured Wi-Fi connections. Mitchell was eventually
identified because he used his own Facebook profile during one of his attempts
to hack into the system.
Taghdissian said: "It was clear there had been
a systematic approach adopted in probing and accessing Zynga. Checks on
[Mitchell's] bank account showed at this time he bought items including a Rolex
watch and was also spending money on online gambling."
determined and repeated efforts to attack Zynga's systems. He succeeded and
transferred 400bn chips and sold them to realise a substantial profit."
Ben Darby, defending, said the loss to Zynga was impossible to quantify
because the chips were virtual and the company could create as many as it
He said Mitchell had enjoyed little benefit and spent most of
the proceeds on online gambling on other sites that use real money.
said: "Gambling had complete control of his life." He said his client was now
an internet entrepreneur with his own Facebook poker site called Gambino, which
could earn him more than £100,000 a year.
computer misuse and four counts of money laundering and asked for 41 similar
cases to be considered. He was also sentenced to 30 weeks for breaching a
40-week suspended sentence imposed in 2008 for hacking into the computer system
of Torbay council, where he once worked.
Judge Philip Wassall told him:
"The dishonesty in this case was substantial and protracted. Online security is
a priority for everyone these days.
"You deprived Zynga of income. It
is quite clear you used a considerable degree of expertise and persistence to
hack into the system.
"It is a considerable aggravating feature that
someone hacks into systems in this way when so much business and personal
finance is done using electronic means.
"From internet banking to major
international transactions, people rely on the security of systems and anyone
who comes before the courts who has gone through these security systems from
their own ends can expect custody.
"The sentence has to reflect the
impact on public confidence in security systems and online business when
someone breaches security in this way."