Big companies like Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft spend a lot of money and take numerous precautions to avoid data breaches, but over the years we’ve seen several successful infiltration attempts by hackers. The most recent case to go to court involves a 24-year-old former security researcher named Zammis Clark who managed to hack both Microsoft and Nintendo.

While working at the Malwarebytes security company, Clark gained access to a Microsoft server on January 24th, 2017 and stole around 43,000 files over a period of three weeks. He also shared that access with others over IRC, allowing hackers from France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries a path to Microsoft’s private files. Clark was then taken down by a combination of Microsoft’s cyber team, the FBI, EUROPOL, and the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit.

After his arrest in June of 2017, Clark was bailed out and released, and no restrictions were placed on his access to computers or the internet. That may have been a mistake. Less than a year later, Nintendo discovered that Clark had hacked into their internal network, gaining access to highly confidential game development servers. Clark also stole 2,365 usernames and passwords, and Nintendo estimates he caused up to $1.8 million in total damages. Microsoft similarly accused him of causing around $2 million in damages.

Even before all of that, Clark had been arrested previously in 2015 for his involvement in a Vtech data breach that saw names, dates of birth, profile images, and even addresses. Some of the information stolen belonged to the accounts of children. Clark admitted his guilt in this case, but Vtech chose not to assist with prosecution, so Clark got away free.

Clark will not be forced to go to prison in the short term. Judge Alexander Milne handed down a sentence of 15 months imprisonment, but it’s suspended by 18 months. This means that if Clark manages to go 18 months without breaking the law, the judge may then dismiss the 15-month sentence. Clark is also subject to five years under a Serious Crime Prevention Order, which means a repeated offense in the next five years could come with a steep fine and up to five additional years in prison.

“Everything I have heard and been told leads me to believe this is a young man who would suffer disproportionality if he went to prison. The heartbreak, and I can only see it as heartbreak for his parents, comes across loud and clear. They are to be commended.”
— Judge Alexander Milne

The judge’s decision not to send Clark to prison immediately was made partially due to the fact that Clark is autistic and has face blindness. The judge believes this makes him particularly vulnerable to violence. Clark’s parents also provided detailed plans for his rehabilitation, including his mother quitting her job to keep an eye on him.

Source: The Verge

Ben Lamoreux

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