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US cracks down on mod-chippers

'Storms' businesses, homes in 16 states

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A US government agency has launched a big investigation into gaming console piracy. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has executed 32 federal warrants across the country, searching businesses and homes for clues surrounding the potential sale and distribution of illegal modification chips and disc copyright circumvention devices for games consoles.

Officials from 22 ICE offices "stormed" businesses, shops, and private residences across 16 states, including California, New York, Florida, and Texas. The ICE says its actions are the result of a year-long investigation.

ICE said it is targeting chips and devices that allow gamers to play pirated and/or counterfeit software on a range of consoles, including the PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, and Wii.

ICE has not yet shed any light on what it recovered from the searches. However, it said people at the 32 locations are allegedly involved in the direct importation, installation, sale, and distribution of such devices, manufactured in foreign countries and then smuggled into the US.

Counterfeiting and piracy costs the US up to $250bn each year and Microsoft has already released a statement proclaiming its full support of ICE's actions. The company stated that the work is an "important step in the continuing fight against piracy".

Last year, a video was posted online that apparently showed an Xbox 360's security system being hacked, allowing the console's DVD drive firmware to play DVD ±R discs - rather than rejecting them.

Earlier this year, an online report also claimed that Nintendo is tweaking the Wii's internal workings to prevent the use of console modification chips.

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