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Man admits hacking Nintendo, leaking details of Switch games console

Graham CLULEY

February 04, 2020

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Man admits hacking Nintendo, leaking details of Switch games console

A 21-year-old Californiana man has pleaded guilty to hacking into into the servers of Nintendo and stealing confidential information about the (then upcoming) Nintendo Switch video game console.

The case dates back to 2016 when Ryan S Hernandez, who was a minor at the time, and an associate successfully phished the login credentials of a Nintendo employee and were able to gain access and download confidential product information.

The stolen files, including pre-release information related to the hotly-anticipated Nintendo Switch console, were then leaked to the public.

In October 2017, an FBI investigation into the hack brought the authorities to the home of Hernandez and his parents. Teenage Hernandez promised officers that he would not engage in any further malicious activity and said that he understood the consequences if he were to hack in future.

However, as a Department of Justice press release spells out, Hernandez (who also went by the name Ryan West, and the online handle “RyanRocks”) continued to hack into Nintendo’s servers from at least June 2018 to June 2019, stealing confidential information about various popular video games, gaming consoles, and developer tools.

Apparently not having learnt his lesson from his previous brush with the law, Hernandez bragged about his exploits on social media, and shared the stolen information with others.

Audaciously, Hernandez operated an online Discord chat forum – which he called “Ryan’s Underground Hangout” – where he and others discussed not only Nintendo’s products, but also shared information about possible vulnerabilities on the gaming giant’s network.

Inevitably, the FBI paid Hernandez another visit and searched his home. Electronic devices were seized, and thousands of confidential Nintendo files were uncovered.

In addition, the authorities discovered a folder on one of his drives called “Bad stuff” which contained more than one thousand videos and images of child sexual abuse.

Hernandez faces up to five years in prison for computer fraud and abuse, and 20 years in prison for possession of child sexual abuse material.

He has agreed to pay $259,323 in restitution to Nintendo for costs associated with the hack, and will also be required to register as a sex offender.

Hernandez is due to be sentenced on 21 April 2020.

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