Feeds

Half Life hacker refused FBI sting bait

German cracker now faces US DDoS-for-hire charges

The essential guide to IT transformation

Games developer Valve worked with the FBI to set up a sting operation to capture a suspected hacker soon after source code for Half Life 2 leaked onto P2P networks in 2003.

The source code of the then-unreleased shoot-em-up game began circulating in September 2003. The breach that lead to the leak was traced back to an attack on Valve's network which involved compromising the email account of Valve's managing director, Gabe Newell. IRC transcripts discussing the hack (pdf) were forwarded to the FBI.

In February 2004 Valve received an email from a hacker who claimed credit for the breach (though not the source code leak), citing technical details to bolster his claim.

Valve maintained correspondence with the hacker, at the behest of the FBI, obtaining clues that suggested the hacker was a German called Axel Gembe, of Schonau, Germany, who'd previously applied for a job with Valve.

Following a phone interview, during which the hacker confirmed his identity as Gembe and explained how he'd hacked into Valve's network, a fake job interview in the US was arranged for the then 21-year-old, Wired reports. A similar trick worked in the case of a Kazakh hacker who was tricked into travelling to the US in 2001 only to find himself cuffed and subsequently convicted for attempting to blackmail New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. In both cases the FBI's Seattle office mounted the sting operation.

But Gembe resisted the fake job offer ruse and remained in his native Germany, where he was charged with the Valve hack and sentenced to probation.

Last month Gembe was indicted in the US over separate allegation that he created the original version of the Agobot botnet client, sharing it with US black-hats who used the software to establish a network of compromise PCs and mount denial of service attacks against a rival satellite TV retailer. Jay Echouafni, 41, skipped bail while awaiting trial on these charges, while his former employee, Paul Ashley, served two years behind bars after pleading guilty to involvement in the DDoS-for-hire scam.

It's unclear whether US authorities will seek to extradite Gembe. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?