Last time, we explored the story of Timothy Lance Lai, at one time a private tutor who was arrested for providing his former students with a keylogger, which they in turn used to change their grades.
We now report on the story of Austin Alcala, a teenage hacker who infiltrated various American corporations and the United States military as a member of an international hacking group.
At just age 19, Alcala, who used the alias “AAmoney” online, was the youngest member of an international hacking collective called XU Group. He was joined in his exploits by Nathan Leroux and Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, both Americans, as well as David Pokora, from Mississauga, Ontario.
Together, the four individuals engaged in a hacking conspiracy between the spring of 2012 and April 2014.
According to a release issued by the Department of Justice, the group gained unauthorized access to the computer networks of a number of American video-game corporations, including Epic Games Inc., Valve Corporation, Zombie Studios and Microsoft.
Alcala and his co-conspirators primarily used software programs, such as “Passwords Pro” and “Password Recovery Attack,” to first break into the victims’ networks. They then launched SQL injection attacks in order to steal sensitive information, including network credentials, copyrighted works and trade secrets.
Authorities state that the hackers successfully made off with technical specifications for the then-unreleased Xbox One, as well as proprietary information and other gaming software for the Xbox Live online platform.
Additionally, the group also successfully stole $100 million in Apache helicopter flight simulation software from the United States Army. According to those involved with the investigation, it was this exploit that alerted federal authorities to the activities of XU Group.
On April 22, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware filed an indictment against the four men. Federal law enforcement agencies have since arrested each one of them, with Nesheiwat and Pokora pleading guilty to conspiracy back in September, followed by Leroux in January of this year.
Earlier this month, Alcala was the last member of the group to plead guilty for several counts of computer hacking conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.
The four men will be held in custody pending their sentencing hearings, which are scheduled to begin later this spring and summer. In the meantime, prosecutors were able to recover an amount of USD $620,000 that the group stole throughout its exploits.
This case is currently being investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, as well as several law enforcement agencies based in Australia and Canada.