Hacker jailed for stealing US$12m in poker chips from Zynga

24 Mar 2011

A 29 year-old hacker has been jailed for two years in the UK for stealing some 400bn virtual poker chips worth over US$12m from online gaming giant Zynga.

Zynga is the creator of popular addictive online games like FarmVille and MafiaWars as well as ZyngaPoker.

Ashley Mitchell stole the chips online to fuel his stg£1,000 a day gambling habit.

He transferred the online poker chips to a number of Facebook accounts he created and sold the chips to poker players at a fraction of the price.

Mitchell made just over stg£50,000 from selling a third of the chips and would have netted stg£184,000 had he not been arrested.

How virtual poker chip thief was caught

Zynga noted that a large number of chips began disappearing. It identified that it had been hacked and was able to pinpoint Mitchell’s home street in Paighton, Devon.

Mitchell was able to piggyback on his neighbours’ unsecured Wi-Fi connections to hide his identity. It was only after his neighbours’ computers were seized by the police that Mitchell was identified.

He was identified because he accidentally used his Facebook profile during one of his hacking attempts.

According to Sophos’ Carole Theriault for every bag of a billion virtual chips stolen worth US$30,000 Mitchell is getting two days in prison.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years