back to article Hacker admits stealing $12m worth of chips from Zynga

A UK-based IT expert has admitted hacking into the servers of game developer Zynga and stealing $12m worth of gaming chips, according to news reports. Ashley Mitchell, 29, of Paignton, Devon, pleaded guilty to five charges on Wednesday in Exeter Crown Court. Judge Philip Wassall told him: “It is inevitable you are going to …


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  1. Johnny Canuck

    400 BILLION???

    Seriously, 400 billion chips! That has got to be a typo.

  2. Oninoshiko


    I thought these things generally have no value (per TOS).

    I suppose the hacking is jail-time-worthy though.

    <---- smiley token

    1. Urh

      Value indeed...

      You can actually buy Zynga poker chips (you can also "earn" them by signing up for spam and buying crap from other websites through cross-promotions), although the chips themselves are not redeemable for cash, as I suppose such a transaction would then make Zynga poker an online gambling operation of sorts. You have to admire the evil genius - Zynga have created a pseudo-gambling operation where people can spend money, but never make it back, and then they can rationalise this by arguing that purchasing chips is merely optional. Sometimes I wish that I had the moral bankruptcy required to devise and capitalise on such ideas. It seems that having a conscience is indeed a financial liability.

      I do call into question the prosecution's estimate that it would cost an individual $12 million to acquire 400 billion in Zynga poker chips. By my own calculations, the cost comes up shy of $1.8 million (perhaps Zynga poker chips are on sale at the moment?). And yes, I did count my zeroes just to be sure (personally I'm just surprised they give people the option to spend so much on what is essentially the electronic equivalent of Monopoly money).

      While the bloke should indeed be punished for the unauthorised access of Zynga's systems and for trying to sell the chips he obtained, but describing the whole enterprise as theft doesn't sit well with me. What Mr Mitchell has done more closely fits the crime of fraud rather than theft in my (legally inept) opinion, and I suspect that is how it is being treated by the court.

  3. Eden


    Anyone mad enough to spend real money on pretend poker chips should be seperated from their money anyway.

    Got Zynga poker on my phone and I'm upto 300k without spending a damn penny, it's really not difficult =/

  4. Bilgepipe


    Why do these people always get so greedy? He might have stolen a much smaller haul and got away with it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me guess...

    "Mitchell was able to gain unauthorized access Zynga's system by posing as one of the company's site administrators."

    UID: Admin

    PWD: Admin


    (And away we go...)

  6. Sam Paton

    So wait.

    He tries to get consideration in sentencing because he is "wrestling with a gambling addictionW, and then asks if he can pay it back because he's making a living off poker (still considered gambling in UK courts hence the tax situ)... Genius.

  7. Elmer Phud

    Something missing?

    Very odd, a piece that includes Zynga and not yet a rant about Facebook.

    What is the world coming to?

  8. Decius

    No cash value

    Why does he have to 'repay' anything? Zynga has not been impoverished at all by the issuing of non-cash-value virtual non-currency.

  9. Courion

    Virtual commodities need security as much as real commodities

    The data breach at Zynga underlines the importance of a strong identity management system and clear policies for creating and protecting access credentials. Of particular concern in this instance was that the infiltrator was able to gain unfettered access by impersonating and using the credentials of a legitimate systems administrator.

    Were it not for the fact the individual stole a considerable amount of valuable data, in the form of virtual poker chips, then got caught trying to sell the data for a fraction of its face value, this breach may never have been noticed. Clearly there is room for improvement in Zynga’s identity and access management (IAM) regime. Any company trading in highly valuable data and virtual commodities such as online credits must ensure their systems are as tightly secured as any other financial institution.

  10. a raccoon

    This isn't hacking.

    This guy didn't do anything wrong. He showed up, acted important, and they gave him the keys to the place. That's not hacking. At worst, it's social engineering. It's like showing up to the Playboy mansion with a nice suit and drinking all their beer.

    What's worse is the fact that anyone at Zynga can apparently create 400 billion artificial credits out of thin air. Why would you invest into an economy where the government body can fiat money at that magnitude and whim?

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