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Fourth Suspect Admits Hacking Microsoft, Video Game Firms

Austin Alcala, a 19-year-old of McCordsville, Indiana, has admitted being part of a cybercriminal group that targeted Microsoft and several video game companies, the U.S.

Austin Alcala, a 19-year-old of McCordsville, Indiana, has admitted being part of a cybercriminal group that targeted Microsoft and several video game companies, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.

The teen has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and criminal copyright infringement. Alcala and his co-conspirators broke into the systems of major tech companies and stole source code, unreleased software, financial data, and proprietary information.

The suspects targeted companies such as Microsoft, Zombie Studios, Valve Corporation, and Epic Games. From Zombie Studios members of the conspiracy stole an Apache helicopter simulator developed by the company for the U.S. Army. From Microsoft they took source code and technical details on the then-unreleased Xbox One console, proprietary data related to Xbox Live, and games developed for the platform.

Members of the hacking ring used the stolen information to build their own version of the Xbox One console before its release. They even attempted to sell one of the counterfeit devices, but the package was intercepted by the FBI.

Alcala has admitted personally taking part in some of the attacks, including the ones targeted at Microsoft and Zombie Studios. He also confessed to transmitting a database containing more than 11,000 login credentials obtained from one of the targeted companies to his co-conspirators.

According to authorities, the damage caused by the hackers, including the value of the stolen information and the amounts paid by victims as a result of the attacks, is estimated to be between $100 million and $200 million. The government has seized more than $620,000 in cash and other proceeds.

Alcala, who is the fourth suspect to plead guilty in this case, will be sentenced on July 29. Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, of Washington, New Jersey, Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland, and David Pokora, 22, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada previously pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge. They remain in custody until their sentencing.

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Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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