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Hackers charged with $100m theft of Xbox and US Army secrets

Four hackers have been charged in connection with the theft of more than $100 million (£62 million) worth of intellectual property from companies such as Microsoft, Epic Games, Valve and the US Army.

The accused face a series of charges including conspiracy to commit computer fraud, copyright infringement, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and theft of trade secrets.

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The stolen material relates to several popular video games such as pre-release versions of Gears of War 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, alongside Apache helicopter simulation software created for the US Army.

The defendants, who are all aged between 18 and 28, also stole confidential information relating to Microsoft's Xbox One console.

Two of the suspects have already pleaded guilty to the charges, including David Pokora of Ontario, Canada. His conviction is perhaps most important, as it represents the first conviction of a foreign-based individual for hacking offences committed against US businesses.

Assistant attorney general Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division emphasised that defending US industries is of the upmost importance.

"The American economy is driven by innovation," she said. "But American innovation is only valuable when it can be protected. Today's guilty pleas show that we will protect America's intellectual property from hackers, whether they hack from here or from abroad."

According to the Department of Justice, the methods used to acquire information from the victims included SQL injections and the use of personal employee logins. The case is still ongoing, but $620,000 in cash and other assets have already been seized by the US government.

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Alongside those charged in the United States, an Australian citizen has also been arrested under Australian law for his alleged role in the hacking.