A hacker from Devon, England was sentenced to two years in prison for hacking social gaming company Zynga and stealing virtual gaming chips.
29-year-old Ashley Mitchell reportedly stole $400 billion in virtual gaming chips from Zynga's poker game. Mitchell did this by hacking into the mainframe of Zynga, stealing the identities of two Zynga employees and taking the chips. The $400 billion in virtual chips are worth an estimated $11.4 million in real money. Mitchell sold one third of the chips and made approximately £53,612 (or $87,000).
Zynga, which analysts estimate has yearly revenue revenue of $850 million, has created popular social games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars. It has a large base of users on Facebook as well as mobile platforms.
The company became suspicious of large amounts of chips vanishing around August of 2009. It suspected the two employees from which Mitchell had hacked, but from an investigation revealed it wasn't their fault. The investigators traced the behavior to Devon, where they seized the computers from Mitchell's neighbors since the hacker was using their unprotected Wi-Fi. However, they eventually linked the crime to Mitchell, as he had used his own Facebook profile during one of his hack attempts.
It was clear there had been a systematic approach adopted in probing and accessing Zynga. Checks on [Mitchell's] bank account showed at this time he bought items including a Rolex watch and was also spending money on online gambling, James Taghdissian, prosecutor, told the Exeter Crown Court according to The Guardian.
Mitchell, who admitted misuse and four counts of money laundering, blamed the criminal conduct on gambling debts.
Zynga did not respond to a request for comment.