Hacker steals billions of Zynga game chips

A British hacker has admitted stealing 400 billion virtual poker chips from Zynga, valued at as much as $12 million.

Ashley Mitchell, 29, of Devon, hacked into the company’s servers in summer 2009 by posing as a site administrator. He then transferred the poker chips into a series of fake Facebook accounts.

He sold around a third of the chips to other users for $86,000. At the price he was selling them, though, they’d have netted him around $300,000.

According to local paper This is South Devon, prosecutor Gareth Evans said that, if sold legitimately by Zynga, the chips would have been worth $12 billion.

But it raises a tricky legal point – after all, Zynga could always issue more chips to replace those which were ‘stolen’ – and, unlike with banknotes, Mitchell didn’t end up with anything he could use elsewhere.

However, Evans argued that there was a potential financial loss for the company as it might lose legitimate customers as a result.

Mitchell’s lawyer said that the crimes were committed while Mitchell was trapped by a gambling addiction.

He pled guilty to four charges of converting criminal property, along with violating the Computer Misuse Act.

Sentencing is next month, but Mitchell is expected to go down – he was already bound by a 40-week suspended sentence for hacking into the local council three years ago.