Two men were given suspended prison sentences in a London court yesterday after entering guilty pleas to hacking charges that saw both Microsoft and Nintendo breached.
Zammis Clark, now 24, broke into a Microsoft server in early 2017 and for about three weeks had access to part of Microsoft’s network. He copied some 43,000 files relating to as-yet unreleased versions of Windows, accumulating substantial information about build numbers, code names, and unreleased products.
One of those others appeared alongside Clark in court: Thomas Hounsell, now 26, performed numerous searches for product information over a 17-day period. Until earlier this year, Hounsell operated BuildFeed, a site tracking internal Windows build numbers and releases, even those that were not made public.
Microsoft estimated that recovery incurred costs of around $2 million.
Both men were arrested in June 2017 after Clark installed malware on one of the Microsoft machines. They were released on bail with no restrictions on their computer usage. After his release, Clark turned his attention to Nintendo, and in March 2018, he broke into development servers and stole 2,365 sets of account credentials before eventually being discovered in May 2018. Nintendo estimated that recovery from the hack cost some £1.4 million ($1.8 million).
This was not Clark’s first run-in with law enforcement; he had been arrested in 2015 for hacking into toymaker VTech. On that occasion, however, he received only a police caution, as VTech didn’t want to cooperate in any prosecution.
At the time of his arrest in 2017, Clark was a security researcher working for Malwarebytes, and made the hacks from his family home.
Clark was given a 15 month prison sentence, suspended (or delayed) for 18 months. So as long as he stays out of trouble for the next year and a half, he won’t have to spend any time inside. At sentencing, Judge Alexander Milne QC said he was spared a custodial sentence because of the efforts made by his parents—his mother has quit her job so that she can aid his rehabilitation and supervision—and reports that he would suffer unduly in prison due to a combination of autism and face blindness. Hounsell was sentenced to six months in prison, also suspended for 18 months, and 100 hours of community service.