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?