One day in 2014, David Pokora, a junior at the University of Toronto, was taken away by the police at the US-Canada border.
On this day, he originally planned to go to the United States to get the online shopping bumper, and took a look at the friend of the Wilmington, Justin May. Pokora and May have known each other for many years. They are already acquaintances on the Internet, but they have never seen it in real life. They are all avid gamers, and they are all fascinated by the internal operating mechanism of the Xbox.
Pokora, who is just in his early 20s, actually registered a company, Xenon Development Studios, where the company's main business is to handle Xbox's service payment business. Pokora can use hacking technology to enable subscribers to unlock in more than 100 different games. Cheats or skip levels. In other words, he is the legendary programmer standing behind the “plug-in”.
Until the arrest, the teenager still had no clear understanding of the crimes he committed. At the beginning, cracking the Xbox created by Microsoft was more like a game of fighting with Microsoft engineers. In fact, his dream was to join Microsoft as a game engineer.
But as time went by, Xbox's hacker circles began to become dirty, and the temptation of money and status broke through the Xbox's hacker's moral bottom line. This teenager quickly accumulated amazing wealth because of his hacking skills. For this reason, the University of Toronto's top students have also been jailed and entered the blacklist of game developers, and the dream of becoming a game programmer has shattered.
In the more than eight months after his arrest, he was sued for plotting to steal as much as $1 billion in intellectual property. The federal prosecutor intended to make Pokora the first foreign hacker convicted of stealing US trade secrets. . Several of his friends and colleagues were eventually involved in the whirlpool of trouble: one became a whistleblower, one became a fugitive, and the other finally passed away.
Talented programming teenager
Although Pokora was only a child of a construction worker who had emigrated from Poland, he was exposed to programming in elementary school and showed his extraordinary talent.
He once wrote the basic web browser. When he returned to his hometown in Poland, he started experimenting with Visual Basic .NET programming. Because there is no network in the old house in the Polish countryside, he could not pass Google when his program went wrong. Search engine for help. But he continually modifies his code until the code becomes perfect and the program is fixed.
When Pocora began to immerse himself in programming, his family bought the first Xbox. Compared to the Super Nintendo console he had before, this Xbox not only connects to the multiplayer game session of the Xbox Live service, but also has its own familiar Windows-derived architecture. This game console falls to the people who really understand it. in.
Whenever Pokora ends the "Halo" game, he searches the Internet for technical information about the Xbox, which also makes him unintentionally enter the hacking community that affects his life, where he finds what the Xbox can do. More things.
For example, Pokora found that hackers could intercept the joystick's CPU, main memory, and flash memory, and found a "kindergarten-level security vulnerability" defined by cryptographer Bruce Schneier.
For example, Microsoft leaves the decryption key for the machine startup code in an accessible area of machine memory. In 2002, a MIT graduate student named Bunnie Huang discovered the vulnerability, which made it possible for all hackers to bypass the Xbox startup to play music, run Linux or simulate Segas and Nintendo's homebrew.
The first thing they need to do is to adjust the firmware of the console, either soldering the so-called modchip to the motherboard or loading a hacked game save file from the USB drive.
Since Pokora cracked his Xbox game console, he began to make a lot of tinkering with the “Halo” game that he was interested in. He often appears in various hacking technology forums to study how to change the physical characteristics of the game.
Soon, talent is different. Pokora has written a utility called “Halo2”, which allows players to add digital water to any scene of the game, turning the sky in the game into a storm.
However, this sense of accomplishment disappeared with the advent of the second generation Xbox (Xbox360) in November 2005. The Xbox360 patched the obvious security flaws that made the 13-year-old Pokora annoyed because he could no longer run. Code not verified by Microsoft.
However, the frustrated Pokora soon found another way to crack.
Another way to go - Xbox 360 Development Kit
For Pokora, there is a potential solution to crack the new Xbox, but it requires a rare piece of hardware: the Xbox 360 Development Kit.
The development kit is the machine that Microsoft registered developers use to write Xbox programs. In the eyes of untrained people, they look like ordinary game consoles, but these units contain most of the software that is indispensable in the game development process, such as tools for line-by-line debugging. If a hacker has a development kit, he can operate the Xbox software just like an authorized programmer.
However, in order to avoid falling into the hands of hackers, Microsoft will only distribute development kits to rigorously screened game development companies.
So Pokora is getting these game development companies, and then get the toolkit?
This is also thanks to the "Internet bubble", as some bankrupt game development companies have closed down, some kits have flowed into the black market, and a hacker has occasionally acquired a development kit and sold it to Pokora, from then on, Pokora began to "giggle" on the stage of the Xbox game console.
Pokora, who has a development kit, quickly released a snippet of his development "Halo3" on a forum like Halomds.com, and explained another hacker, Anthony Clark, who had disassembled Xbox. In the experience, he contacted Pokora and started working on some game projects.
The two technically complementary people quickly collaborated to hack out more features, and their cracking tools can give the game protagonist special skills, such as jumping into the cloud or being able to launch strange shells.
This has also received the attention of Microsoft engineers, but these professional programmers did not comment on this maliciously. Instead, they told Pokora that it was so cool that you did a good job in reverse engineering.
These encouraging feedbacks made Pokora convinced that he was on the career path of game development and gained an unprecedented sense of accomplishment. After all, becoming a Microsoft game engineer is his dream, and he can get praise from these programmers. The words are a great encouragement.
However, the two teenagers' “pranks” have become more and more popular since then. In 2009, the pair not only used PartnerNet to run their modified version of “Halo3”, but also cracked the unreleased beta. software.
Pocola has cut a map about “Halo3” and then shares it with friends. As a result, this screenshot is quickly spread among fans. When Pokora and Clark returned to PartnerNet to play “Halo3”, they saw the message left by Bungie engineers on the game's home screen: “The winner should not break into PartnerNet. ”
But the two hackers didn't pay attention to this warning. They still thought the prank was very interesting, and then they stole the beta.
In 2009, the once-unbreakable Xbox 360 was cracked by a team of hackers called JTAG. As soon as the news came out, a large number of Xbox 360 players began to compete to buy cracked devices in an attempt to defeat the opponents in the game through plug-ins. Many people do not hesitate to pay for it, and Pokora calls these people “children who are spoiled by their parents’ credit cards. ”
Blind by money and power
Pokora and Clark gradually realized that their hacking skills could make a lot of money by seeing a large number of players starting to buy heavily “plug-in” devices.
Since then, they have blacked out the shooting game "Call of Duty; and created a new version to build a paid gaming platform. If you want to play this adaptation game, players pay $100 per hour.
If the player is willing to pay another 50-150 dollars, Pokora and Clark can also sell them to the plug. At first Pokora's heart was rejected because he knew that these players could use the plug-in to kill the opponent, which is contrary to the spirit of the game.
However, under the temptation of money, these concerns quickly disappeared without a trace. When business is good, they can earn $8,000 a day, and sometimes they are busy trying to hire someone to help. Although Microsoft later designed a system to automatically detect plug-ins in order to prevent players from plugging in, Pokora quickly cracked the system.
Beginning at the University of Toronto in the fall of 2010, Pokora's tuition fees are all paid by themselves. He and his girlfriend ate in high-end restaurants almost every night, and went out to live in high-end hotels with more than $400. For the former construction worker's son, Pokora, the lure of money allowed him to enjoy something he had never seen before.
But Pokora thinks that he doesn't just enjoy money or the worship of his peers. What he really intoxicated is the sense of power that makes this underground game empire worth $60 million.
He knows that his game business violates a number of copyright laws, but because Microsoft has not done it for himself, he believes that the other party will tolerate his own actions. Anyway, & ldquo; This is just a game. It’s not black who’s the server or who’s stealing private information. & rdquo; Every time I meet the other party's complaint letter, Pokora comforts herself.
After the popularity in the circle became more and more, the number of people who came to Pokora increased. For example, a 14-year-old hacker named Wheeler sent an email to Pokora, who proposed to sneak into a family called “Epic & rdquo”. Inside the game company, stealing internal information of the company. While looking through Epic's internal mail, Pokora and Wheeler discovered that Epic and the FBI had a trace of cooperation. They also discovered the US military's remote control tunnel in the game developer Zombie Studios.
In September 2011, Pokora stole the pre-release version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. In the spring of 2012, Pokora and Wheeler began stealing Zombie Studios.
In addition, they recruited newcomers, a high school student in Indiana, Austin Alcala, and a son of Maryland mechanics, Nathan Leroux.
In the intranet of the Zombie Studio, they found a tunnel for the US military server, a simulator developed by Zombie Studios for the Pentagon.
At the same time, Pokora's hacking team continues to toss Microsoft. They stole the next generation of Xbox—— an earlier version of Xbox One, Durango. They do not intend to sell this information to Microsoft's competitors, but intend to build a cottage version.
Leroux volunteered because he needed money to pay for the online computer course at the University of Maryland. After the cottage was ready, they sold it to a buyer in the Indian Ocean for $5,000.
However, this package has not been sent. Wheeler insisted that this was just that they had encountered a rip-off. He put the cottage version of Leroux on Ebay and the price soared to more than $20,000.
After being irritated by Wheeler's stun, Pokora broke his connection with him. But at this time Pokora's American hacker friends began to tell him that they were being tracked by some black windows with black windows. Leroux also disappeared, and some said he was taken away by the FBI.
Because of the inconsistency, Pokora and Clark, who are already 20 years old, parted ways. Pokora is busy with university studies while continuing to do Xbox plug-in business. Wheeler continued his high-profile arrogance and mdash; — he said on Twitter that he had a meal with the investigators sent by Microsoft, and Microsoft wanted him to tell the real behind-the-scenes intelligence.
In December 2012, the FBI searched Nesheiwat's home because he posted a search warrant for the FBI online. Wheeler yelled at these FBI agents in public forums. In September 2013, he was finally arrested at his home in Australia. The Australian police got a lot of evidence on his hard drive because he liked screenshots every time he finished a vote.
On July 23 of the same year, Pokora, Nesheiwat, and Leroux were charged with 16 counts of telecommunications fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. From the guilt, the police's information comes mainly from an inside whistle-blower, who is probably the one that Pokora wants to see at the beginning of the article.
The ending of the hacker boy
Clark has cracked the FIFA game, so after the team was disbanded, he was doing the business of selling virtual currency generated by FIFA games. He was accused of earning $16 million in revenue through this loophole.
But his lawyer argued that Clark's activities did not cause damage to the game developer Electronic Arts. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old Clark left more than $4 million in assets because alcohol and drugs died at home before the trial.
Wheeler escaped to the mother's homeland —— Czech Republic, later obtained a European passport through refugee status and currently resides in the UK.
May is currently under investigation for allegedly defrauding Microsoft and Cisco's millions of dollars worth of hardware.
Alcala did not plead guilty because he cooperated with the police. He went to college and went to the dean's list of commendations. He was also invited to speak at an FBI infrastructure security conference.
Leroux did not immediately arrest after the FBI searched his home, but fled elsewhere to start a new life. Before being arrested, he became a programmer and programmed for a game developer called Human Head Studios. He was 20 when he was arrested. He was sentenced to 24 months after he was arrested and tried to escape and attack the police. While serving his sentence, his colleagues at Human Head Studios wrote to the court to praise his wisdom and friendliness. He returned to the company after he was released from prison.
Pokora was sentenced to 18 months. While being held in jail, Pokora discovered a hidden version of Microsoft's card games. After he was released from prison, he returned to Canada and was reunited with his girlfriend and family.
However, he has been on the blacklist of game development, so the dream of becoming a game programmer has shattered.
Lei Feng Wang VIAWired