Real Money Trading, Real Item Theft, Real Felony Conviction


Interesting article on Fusion.net about two guys who received felony convictions for hacking computers and stealing Diablo III items worth upwards of $8000, back in the 2012 days of the Real Money Auction House.

Real Money Trading, Real Item Theft, Real Felony Conviction:

In the summer of 2012, Patrick Nepomuceno of California and Michael Stinger of Maryland, who had met each other through gaming chat platform TeamSpeak, committed a series of virtual “hold-ups” in the role-playing video game Diablo III. They sold the armor and weapons they stole from other players for over $8,000 in real money, according to court documents. It’s a fascinating example of the justice system grappling with digital wrongdoing, and deciding how harshly to punish people for stealing virtual items.

…According to Wilkison, court documents, and an interview with Michael Stinger, Nepomuceno bought a RAT, a ‘remote access tool’ used to take over a computer remotely. Nepomuceno and Stinger got other Diablo III players to download the RAT by disguising it as a link to a photo, which they claimed was a screenshot of a rare item. After a player clicked on the link and downloaded the RAT, Nepomuceno gained access to their computer, and was able to take over their Diablo character. He would force the character to drop all of the valuable gear and gold the player had collected, and Stinger’s demon hunter character, who was hanging out nearby in the game, would swoop in to steal the goods.

…The pair got probation — three years for Stinger and two years for Nepomuceno — and have to pay Blizzard back $5,654.61, an amount that reflects how much the company spent investigating the case. Stinger is currently paying Blizzard $100 per month.

…In our conversation, Stinger still sounded in shock that his video game hijinks resulted in a real-world criminal record. Now in college, he says finding a job is tough because “they look into your background and see that you have a ‘unlawful access to computers’” conviction.

Read the full article for more details, but you get the gist of things. According to the story, the players who were “hacked” got their accounts rolled back and the items restored, but obviously it had to be a shocking experience, as they suddenly lost control of their characters in game and set to item fountaining.

Some might argue that it’s a harsh punishment for virtual actions that Blizzard replaced, but I imagine most of you guys read this and join the squeaking chorus of the world’s tiniest violins, playing the Schadenfreude Sympathy for these fellows facing consequences for their actions.

What do you guys think? Glad to hear someone got busted for being a h4x0r even on this minor scale? Do you think the victims should bear some of the blame for running unsecured computers and falling victim to such a simple trojan? Or do you blame Blizzard for enabling RMT and RMAH in the first place?

Comments

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  1. Pre-meditated fraud… Yep, that’s a felony conviction. The fact that it happened via electronic media doesn’t matter.

    I don’t want to see young kids going to jail for very foolish choices, but it sounds like they got off easy to me.

    • I agree with that statement entirely. People need to know that virtual things are safe. It’s just like right to music and film and any intellectual property.

      I don’t think its’ cool to steal music or movies either.

  2. The point isn’t even about the pretend gear they stole. They willfully took advantage of someone else’s trust, and the power they gained from that could have been used for much worse purposes. I wouldn’t “go easy” on some punk teenagers who lied their way into someone’s house and only stole some socks.

    “Gee, I didn’t really think my actions would have consequences” isn’t really a defense.

    Don’t get me wrong, whoever was dumb enough to run their program was equally to blame. That kind of ignorance is inexcusable these days.

  3. They did breaking into law-protected computers (and god knows if they only took some ingame items or maybe more than that), stealing n about to get profit from doing so and now they feel shocked for getting a criminal record ? COME ON GIVE ME A BREAK ! They are just 1 step more from real e-crime scenes where hackers steal CCs and stuffs like that.

  4. They escaped way too easy. A couple of months – maybe a year in jail would have been more appropriate for their actions. Stealing is just stealing, no matter if it’s of real goods or digital stuff.

  5. thats what those rats deserve !!

  6. In our conversation, Stinger still sounded in shock that his video game hijinks resulted in a real-world criminal record. Now in college, he says finding a job is tough because “they look into your background and see that you have a ‘unlawful access to computers’” conviction.

    Awww diddums . Screwed your life for in game items . Sad ….

  7. Kind of wonder why it cost Blizzard nearly $6k to investigate such a low tech hack. Not counting the customer service phone calls, you’d think it’d be relatively simple to see what happened here. It’s not like their servers were hacked. Does this mean it costs them millions of dollars when they post statistics on most popular/least popular builds or item usage? Ouch.

  8. “Do you think the victims should bear some of the blame for running unsecured computers and falling victim to such a simple trojan?”

    Um, no? Do you blame the elderly for falling for the scams that plague that community? Operating in an unfamiliar space does not make one fair game for exploitation or theft.

    • with that said it would be in everyone’s best interest if people were little less retarded with their machines.

      • Not necessarily true, @crazyziggy. That would be like you coming in to see me in the ER, and me telling you: “maybe you shouldn’t have been so careless.” Not all people are as advanced in computers / electronics. And, I cannot recall a report stating that their machines were “open and retarded.”

  9. The only 100% secure way to browse the web is a chromebook. It doesn’t have a true OS to hack. Its just a browser. Had someone downloaded the “image” on a chromebook, it would have not been able to do anything.

    My recommendation for gamers is that they have 2 computers. One is your actual gaming rig that you play your games on and ONLY play your games on. Then you also have a $200 chromebook. You use the chromebook for browsing the web.

    You could even have the gaming rig and the chromebook share a keyboard, monitor and mouse using an IOGEAR Peripheral sharing switch (as seen on Amazon).

    • Or you could just not do profoundly stupid things, like trying to “look at a picture” by opening a strange .exe file.

  10. This is a very fair punishment for a very real crime on fake, err, virtual items.
    I am happy about that. Usually in Europe we only hear about the rediculous sentences.

  11. ‘I imagine most of you guys read this and join the squeaking chorus of the world’s tiniest violins’

    Uhhh they committed fraud and profited at the expense of others. What does the above even mean?

  12. I think the fact that they are shocked that their actions actually had consequences says alot about the world and society. These 2 youngsters were apparently not raised to know that stealing and committing fraud is wrong? wow. Now the courts have to do the parents job.

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