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Hacker Steals Virtual Billions From Zynga

| 2 Feb 2011 20:13
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A thief that hacked into Zynga's servers to steal billions in virtual currency now faces serious jail time.

29-year-old Ashley Mitchell of the UK is in deep trouble for stealing billions from Zynga. Luckily for the social gaming company, he stole billions of the chips used in Zynga Poker, and didn't actually steal from the company warchest.

Zynga Poker is an online version of Texas Hold 'Em. Mitchell somehow found his way into the game's system and came out with 400 billion in virtual poker chips, vauled at $12 million. Before getting caught, he sold a third of the stolen chips at a steep discount and earned £53,000 ($85,700).

Mitchell recently appeared in court where a prosecutor said that in theory his theft was no different from a criminal stealing paper money from a government Mint, even though it was a virtual crime. Zynga can simply make more poker chips appear with the pushing of a bunch of keys, but Mitchell still took money out of its pockets by redirecting customers to the Zynga Poker "black market."

I find myself wondering exactly how Mitchell stole the chips, because according to reports it seems that he literally hacked into a server and removed them, but I would think Zynga generates virtual currency when a person buys it, attaching it to an account, and doesn't have servers that are simply holding billions in virtual chips, dollars, and coins. It's a little confusing, but the fact remains that Mitchell somehow found a way to award others with the chips.

Mitchell evidently faces some serious trouble for the crime, as it violates a suspended sentence handed down in 2008 from when he previously hacked into a government website. His defense attorney says that Mitchell was dealing with a gambling addiction and had spent £3,000 ($4,850) on online games.

For his Zynga Poker-related crime, Mitchell pleaded guilty to four counts of "converting criminal property" and one count of "securing unauthorized access to a computer with intent to commit an offense." His punishment wasn't laid out yet, but it probably won't be very nice, and it was all because of Zynga Poker. Definitely not worth it.

Source: ThisIsSouthDevon, via Gamasutra

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