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Hacking of Web game EverQuest linked to local teen
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Fri, 7 Sep 2001 02:01:32 -0500 (CDT)


By Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter
August 31, 2001 

Federal agents have seized 10 computers and other computer gear from
the home of a Snoqualmie teen suspected of hacking into Sony's
extremely popular online game "EverQuest."

The hacking would have given him access to personal information on
hundreds of thousands of players and Sony employees.

Agents also say the hacker, who was 17 at the time, was able to access
the home computer of the company's vice president of product
development, Brad McQuaid, and downloaded documents for an
as-yet-unreleased version of the popular role-playing fantasy game.

Sony, which declined comment on the investigation, says the game is
played by as many as 400,000 people worldwide and reaps more than $50
million a year in revenue.

No arrests have been made, and no charges have been filed, said
Deborah Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San
Diego, where Sony Online is based.

A search warrant filed recently in U.S. District Court in Seattle
shows that FBI computer-crime agents seized 10 computers and dozens of
computer drives and disks from the home two weeks ago. Agents are also
investigating a Mobile, Ala., man over the intrusions.

The warrant says the U.S. Attorney's Office suspects the men of crimes
that could put them in federal prison for up to five years.

Last October, authorities say, the men broke into one of the 40
servers Sony Online uses to operate the game and gained access to a
powerful "superuser" account.

Through that account, they gained access to the private accounts of
Sony employees, a password-protected messaging board and "all other
customer accounts."

"Access to these accounts gives the superuser an individual's name,
date of birth, work and home telephone numbers, Internet protocol
address and other information," including home addresses, according to
an affidavit filed with the warrant.

Moreover, superuser status also "enables the user to have complete
administrative controls over the game, including the suspension,
banning and unbanning of accounts."

Sony Online officials told agents several accounts were tampered with
during this time period, including one belonging to the Alabama

The hacking provided the intruder with information that allowed him to
surreptitiously access the home computers of McQuaid an icon among
Internet gaming enthusiasts and the producer of "EverQuest,"
considered the most popular online role-playing game ever and two Sony
"game masters," responsible for the operation of "EverQuest," the
affidavit says.

In McQuaid's computer, the hacker copied a voluminous file containing
the blueprint for the release of the game's next version,
"EverQuest2," scheduled for release next year. Other personal and
proprietary information was also accessed.

For reasons unexplained, the hacker sent all of the proprietary files
that were hacked to a Sony executive, "making it evident that (he) had
illegally obtained the files." Until then, Sony Online Entertainment
was unaware of the extent of the intrusion.

Sony Online had experienced a series of security problems they now
attribute to the two suspects.

A private, password-protected "guide board," used by "EverQuest"
operators to communicate with one another, was posted on HackerQuest,
an Internet bulletin board frequented by game players.

Later, a Sony game master, Alan Crosby, was contacted anonymously
through a private e-mail system by one of the hackers.

Sony Online officials were able to trace the contact to the teenager
in Snoqualmie.

Mike Carter can be reached at 206-464-3706 or
mcarter () seattletimes com 

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