Four young hackers have been officially charged with hacking into the systems of tech giant Microsoft and the US Army, taking with them US$100m worth of intellectual property and secrets.
The four people from the US, aged between 18 and 28, were able to access material that included the army’s training software for its Apache helicopter gunships, while also stealing Microsoft’s pre-release copies of games, including Modern Warfare 3, part of the popular Call of Duty series.
According to The Guardian, two of the people charged have pleaded guilty to the charges, while one is contesting the claim that this software is the equivalent of between US$100-US$200m in intellectual property value.
Along with the accusation of stealing of this software, the four have also been charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and stealing trade secrets of both parties.
They are to be sentenced in January, and face five years in prison each.
Speaking after the court hearing on the case, assistant US attorney Ed McAndrew said the young ages of the accused should play no part in the verdict.
“These were extremely sophisticated hackers … Don’t be fooled by their ages.”
It is believed the US Department of Justice first became aware of the hackers’ activities back in January 2011 after a tip-off from an informant, and were able to locate them by working with developers of the hacked software.