April 27, 2021
At the beginning of 2011, 29-year-old Briton, Ashley Mitchell, hacked into Zynga and embezzled $12 million worth of online chips. Mitchell was recently sentenced by the Exeter Crown Court, facing four charges of converting criminal property and violating the Computer Misuse Act. The court gave him two years imprisonment for these offenses.
Another Hacking Incident
Mitchell has a history of criminal hacking activity. In 2008, Mitchell hacked into a local government network which resulted in a 40 week suspended sentence. As a result, Mitchell had broken the terms of this sentence and issued additional 30-week imprisonment.
The Zynga Network
Mitchell hacked into the Zynga network and stole 400 billion digital poker chips which equate to $12 million. These chips cannot be converted to cash. Therefore, the only way Mitchell could have made money from these chips is to sell them to other Zynga players. He attempted to do exactly this and received $86,000 total for a portion of these chips when he was caught. At his current rates, he would have profited $300,000 if never caught.
The Precision Of Hacking
The prevailing judge on the case was Philip Wassal who recognized the expertise and precision used to hack into their computer system. Judge Wassal further stated the time Mitchell had spent researching the system must have been considerable. Since people and businesses rely heavily on computer systems, the Judge issued Mitchell a stiffer sentence.
During the trial, Prosecutor Gareth Evans indicated that the currency Mitchell stole exists only online and is available exclusively through Zynga. Therefore, the theft did not affect the company’s revenue unlike most other instances of stealing. Additionally, Zynga has the opportunity to recreate the digital chips stolen by Mitchell. On the other hand, the theft may have resulted in a loss of clients due to the potential for hackers at the website.
In the end, Mitchell pleaded guilty and was found to be struggling with a gambling addiction. His lawyer recognized that Mitchell was spending at least 1,000 Pounds per day at online poker rooms and casinos.
Hopefully, the prosecution of Ashley Mitchell makes an impact on the online gambling industry forcing them to double-check all security systems to ensure this does not occur with real money chips. Although most online casinos are certified secure, robust, and reliable entities, it is still important to routinely verify no holes exist in the software.