Steven Burrell, a 21-year-old from the UK, has admitted hacking into the accounts of over 100 RuneScape players in an effort to steal and sell their virtual goods. The money he made was used to pay off his gambling debts.
According to the Daily Mail, Burrell illegally accessed the accounts of RuneScape players 3, 872 times over the course of 16 months. He stole various items which he sold on fan forums for up to £3, 000 ($4, 930 / €3, 590).
Jagex, the company that develops the game, said it took as many as 1, 000 hours of company time to deal with the complaints of those who had been impacted by the man’s hacking spree.
Burrell was first cautioned by police in July 2012 after hacking a Jagex employee’s Facebook account.
However, in April 2013, he was arrested. At the time, he emailed Jagex to apologize. After hacking accounts another 27 times, he was arrested again in June and charged.
Since the goods he stole are virtual, he couldn’t be charged with theft. However, he has been charged with unauthorized computer access. Burrell has pleaded guilty.
The judge has sentenced him to a 12-month community order and 150 hours of unpaid work. He will also have to forfeit his two computers and pay some small fines.
The prosecutor says the man hacked the accounts not only to pay off his debts, but also to “gain kudos among people of the Internet.” In fact, the prosecutor believes this was his main motivation.
“He is a normal, rational human being, whose course of conduct has clearly caused a lot of trouble, ” noted the defense attorney, Stuart Jeffery.
“He used a fantasy world to try to deal with problems in the real world, which were financial and related to gambling. It is clear he did not consider the long-term consequences because that world was not real.”