Exploring the rise and eventual fall of Xbox's early teenage hackers
"As much as I consciously made the decisions I did, I never meant for it to get as bad as it did.”
- David Pokora looks back on his now-infamous hacking career
Wired has shared a story online from its print magazine that tracks the whirlwind careers of a number of teenage hackers responsible for an escalating slew of hacks and millions in intellectual property theft between the early 2000s and today.
Some of the events mentioned in the story, like the big Gears of War 3 leak or the Xbox Scorpio dev kit that ended up on eBay, may be familiar to game devs but, as Wired uncovers, those events were only the tip of the iceberg.
Much of the story follows the journey of David Pokora, a Canadian man who discovered he had a penchant for hacking early on in life. His self-taught programming experience eventually inspired him to poke around in Xbox hardware and join the ranks of an online community of hackers doing the same.
Pokora’s arc follows him through the 360 era, chronicling the steps he and others went to in order to secure developer kits and manipulate software on the system. When a modchip-powered vulnerability in the 360 was discovered, Pokora and his group started hacking Call of Duty games and selling access to hacked servers or game-breaking in-game powers.
From there, Pokora’s group continued down a legally dubious path that would eventually land them in hot water. They eventually obtained login credentials for Epic Games’ internal network, poked around in employees' personal files, and stole and shared a build of Gears of War 3 ahead of its release, triggering an FBI investigation in the process.
Things continued to escalate as the group broke into other networks belonging to other companies and developers, obtained simulations commissioned by the U.S. military, and abetting the theft of a Scorpio prototype from Microsoft’s physical campus.
“As much as I consciously made the decisions I did, I never meant for it to get as bad as it did,” Pokora told Wired. “I mean, I wanted access to companies to read some source code, I wanted to learn, I wanted to see how far it could go—that was it. It was really just intellectual curiosity. I didn’t want money—if I wanted money, I would’ve taken all the money that was there. But, I mean, I get it—what it turned into, it’s regrettable.”