Would-be Modern Warfare 2 pirate busted

Private investigation firm helps Activision track down hacker who leaked upcoming shooter, leading to arrest of 18-year-old.

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With Activision proclaiming next week's launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to be the biggest debut in entertainment history, tech blog VentureBeat has provided a look at the efforts to address prerelease piracy of the highly anticipated game and how it landed one young hacker in jail.

According to the blog, the story began last week, when an ad for Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 bundles surfaced on Craigslist. When Activision spotted the ad, it contacted Dallas-based private investigation firm IPCybercrime.com, which arranged to purchase two such bundles from the seller. IPCybercrime also spotted a separate ad for the bundle with the seller claiming to be a stock boy for a major game retailer, identified the two sellers as friends based on an online social network, and turned their information over to Activision.

Modern Warfare 2 is just the latest in a long line of games to be leaked and pirated before launch.
Modern Warfare 2 is just the latest in a long line of games to be leaked and pirated before launch.

When confronted by Activision, the two sellers admitted they had swiped a crate of the Modern Warfare 2 systems, and their case was then turned over to the retailer's loss prevention staff. The story might have ended there, if not for one of the seller's other customers.

IPCybercrime found a post by a user on an Xbox piracy forum asking people to donate money so he could buy one of the Craigslisted bundles, rip the game, and distribute it online. Investigators cross-referenced the user's e-mail address with a Facebook account, which had his cell phone number listed, and determined his identity to be 18-year-old Christian Del Amo. They turned the information over to the Miami-Dade police department, who arranged to purchase a pirated copy of the game and bust the hacker in the process.

Christian Del Amo.
Christian Del Amo.

Police obtained the game from a "runner," who led them back to Del Amo. The 18-year old was arrested yesterday and is currently incarcerated in Miami's Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. IPCybercrime told VentureBeat that Del Amo was set up to sell thousands of illegal copies of Modern Warfare 2.

According to VentureBeat, Del Amo had a history of piracy, selling modded 250GB Xbox 360 hard drives preloaded with 125 hacked games through auction site iOffer.com. At retail, the games could cost thousands of dollars, but Del Amo sold the hard drives for $150.

While an arrest was made in the case, it didn't come quick enough to prevent piracy of the game. Illegal copies of Modern Warfare 2 have been appearing on peer-to-peer file-sharing services since earlier this week, potentially costing publisher Activision thousands of lost sales.

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