Zynga Poker Hacker Jailed For 2 Years

Zynga PokerA 29 year-old computer hacker from Little Park Road, Paignton who stole £7.4 million worth of online poker chips has been jailed for more than two years.

Ashley Mitchell broke into Zynga’s system and stole 400 billion poker chips. He then set up user profiles on the site Facebook to sell around one third of the chips for a black market value of £53,000. If Mitchell had sold all of the chips his total profit would have been around £184,000.

He had made repeated efforts to hack into the giant online gaming company’s mainframe. Zynga were forced to install upgrades to their system to block the hacking attempts. Prosecutor James Taghdissian stated the company became aware of the attacks to its system, dating back as far as August 2009.

The court was told Zynga Corporation, which is a web-based company with its headquarters in San Francisco, operates on social networking sites like Facebook. Users on the site can receive free chips to play online games such as Mafia Wars and Zynga Poker.

The company tracked the problem to Mitchell after he had used a computer hacking program available on the internet to steal the identity of two individuals in San Fransisco. He used these aliases to credit his own account with chips, and then proceeded to sell the online gaming chips to other users on Facebook.

Eventually, Mitchell was tracked down after using his own Facebook profile to hack into the system. After a lengthy investigation he was finally arrested by police in September 2009.

The court was told Mitchell used some of the profits to pay for expensive luxury items such as Rolex watches as well as to fund a gambling addiction.

Mitigating, Ben Darby, said “These offences were committed at a time when the defendant was battling with a gambling addiction.” “He spent £3,000 of his own money on gambling at this time.” he also added.
In court:, Judge Philip Wassall said “You used a considerable degree of expertise and persistence through software you purchased to hack into the computer system. The means of gaining access to it shows to me and elaborate and extensive research.”

Mitchell also faces additional charges for selling criminal property. He asked for 41 similar offences to be taken into consideration, and was given a two year sentence for the hacking and fraud offences.