A young man caught hacking into Nintendo’s servers to steal secret Switch blueprints has been sentenced to three years in prison after ignoring an FBI warning to stop.
According to court documents [PDF] Ryan Hernandez of Palmdale, California, is now 21 though in 2016, while a minor, he requested help on a Nintendo forum. An engineer at the Japanese giant clicked on a link in that post and was taken to a malicious website that secretly obtained the staffer's login credentials for Nintendo's developer portal. These were then used to gain administrator access on the internal site.
From there, he stole reams of Nintendo's confidential information, some of it on the yet-to-be-announced Switch console, that he then posted online. This attracted the attention of the FBI, who turned up at his parents’ house in October 2017, and extracted a promise from Hernandez that he would stop his hacking activities.
Brit founder of Windows leaks website BuildFeed, infosec bod spared jail over Microsoft hackREAD MORE
The teenager didn’t, and starting June 2018, he again rummaging around in Nintendo’s servers, posting details of his successful attempts on Twitter and Discord, using the names RyanRocks and RyanWest. He also posted confidential information he had swiped from Nintendo in a Discord he called “Ryan’s Underground Hangout.”
The more recent hacks were, however, carried out while Hernandez was an adult, and so the Feds swooped in June 2019, raiding his house and grabbing his laptop, hard drive, and two Nintendo Switches. They found numerous illegally obtained files from Nintendo as well as 669 photos and 968 videos of child sexual abuse.
It was also revealed Hernandez had stored the images in a folder called “Bad stuff,” and then further rated them in sub-directories labeled "cute," "eh," and "okish," depending on their content. Prosecutors described three videos in particular obtained by Hernandez, all of which featured prepubescent boys.
That discovery put Hernandez in a spot: he faced up to five years for the hacking charge, and up to 20 years for the child abuse material. In the end, he reached a guilty plea deal in January to avoid a trial. This month the judge went light on him, giving him 36 months each for one charge of hacking and one of possessing the underage material, with the sentences running concurrently.
He also agreed to pay Nintendo $259,323 in restitution. The judge recommended Hernandez be placed in “a Bureau of Prisons facility for inmates with cognitive challenges.”
When he gets out of the cooler, Hernandez will have seven years of supervised release, and will be registered as a sex offender. He faces a range of restrictions from not being allowed to have any contact with anyone under 18 without supervision, to having to obtain approval for where he lives and any bank accounts or credit cards he opens. He’s also banned from using any form of hacking software. ®