You've probably never heard of RANE Developments. It's a hacking group out of Texas and consists of four members: Anthony Clark, Ricky Miller, Nicholas Castellucci and Eaton Zveare. Though the name and size of this gang doesn't exactly denote power or influence, these four men concocted a scheme in 2013 that would see millions of dollars robbed from one of the largest gaming publishers in the world, Electronic Arts.
Yesterday, in Texas, that scheme came to an end with defendant Anthony Clark's trial, during which he was accused of conspiracy to commit fraud. But you're probably asking yourself, how did these four individuals manage to steal so much money from EA? The answer: #FIFA Coins.
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How Four Hackers Robbed Millions From EA With The Help Of FIFA Coins
While FIFA Coins usually work the other way round and rob consumers of their hard-earned cash, RANE Developments were set on making EA's virtual currency profitable for themselves.
FIFA Coins are the oft-criticized form of in-game currency that games like #FIFA17 use, allowing players to purchase various upgrades and items. Coins can be obtained by playing and winning matches or by spending real dollars. It's a simple system and it obviously makes EA a ton of gold! But they're not the only ones who profit from this in-game currency.
FIFA coins are extremely popular in the third-party marketplace. There are tons of sites dedicated to selling them for a profit, including an entire sub-reddit dedicated to the selling and trading of these little bits of gold. This is where RANE Developments came in.
Clark and his co-conspirators built a tool that could send false signals to EA's servers to imitate matches, which generated FIFA coins at a rapid and alarming rate. Once the coins where in their possession, they sold them to third-party sellers and “black market” dealers in Europe and China. The scheme, which began at an undisclosed time in 2013, continued until September 17, 2015. During this time, RANE Developments made between $15 and $18 million dollars. You could say that money was their only GOOOOOOOAL!
But all of this was put to an end once the FBI stepped in.
"Say Goodbye To Your Millions," Screamed the FBI
All of these shady dealings came to an end once the FBI started to investigate the case in the Autumn of 2015.
Their case began with an informant. He was a member of Xbox Underground, an informal collection of hackers who've been responsible for several attacks in the past, such as stealing software from Valve and Microsoft, amongst other companies. He was actually tried in a previous FBI investigation.
The member in question is Austin Alcala, who cooperated with the FBI and informed them that he'd worked with Rane Developments to get Xbox development kits and "reverse-engineer a pirated copy of FIFA 14 using a program called Interactive Disassembler." In order to get the scheme up and running, the team of four took several months to create a tool for mining FIFA coins, which eventually worked wonders.
Alcala gave the FBI access to his social media accounts and messages in an effort to help them uncover the identities of the hacker group. He also informed them that Anthony Clark was the guy who was "calling the shots" and that the others were simply helping him with his scheme.
Once all the names were uncovered, the FBI went to work. They confiscated a bunch of Xbox 360s and PCs from the defendants, as well as $2,887,362 from a Bank of America account in Anthony Clark’s name and several hundred thousand dollars from accounts belonging to Miller, Zveare, and Castellucci. If that wasn't enough, they also managed to seize several luxury cars, including a Lamborghini that Miller graciously bought for himself in 2014. They must have been living quite the high life for these two years.
But it seems they took their eye off the ball, ultimately making it rather easy for the FBI to uncover their identities and put an end to the multi-million-dollar scheme. The trial, which began yesterday, will continue for an unspecified amount of time until a verdict is reached. Justice served.