The Federal Bureau of Investigation filed charges yesterday against a 25-year-old, accusing him of hacking into EA’s servers and stealing in-game currency for FIFA 18 that the publisher says was worth $US324,000 ($442,032).
Martin Marsich, a Serbian and Italian citizen, appeared in a San Francisco court yesterday after he was arrested at the airport on Wednesday night local time.
He’s charged with “intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain” and “accessing a protected computer to defraud and obtain anything of value,” according to a press release from the US Department of Justice.
If Marsich is convicted, the maximum sentence is five years imprisonment and a $US250,000 ($341,074) fine.
In an affidavit, FBI agent Justin Griggs accused Marsich of using an exploit to gain access to the backend of NBA Live 15, which he then used as a bridge to get onto FIFA’s servers.
“The secret access token allowed the hacker to forge a connection between NBA LIVE 15 and FIFA 18,” the affidavit reads. “Since NBA LIVE 15 was a trusted server, the hacker was able to exploit the trust between NBA LIVE 15 and FIFA 18 to gain access to FIFA 18.”
From there, Griggs said, Marsich distributed copies of the game to 17,000 EA accounts and FIFA in-game currency packs to 8000 accounts. Then, Griggs said, he sold the accounts and packs on black market websites.
This is not the first incident of hackers allegedly using FIFA coins to make money. In 2016, most notably, the FBI accused a group of men including Texas resident Anthony Clark of mining coins from EA’s servers, then selling them on the black market. Clark was found dead in his home a few months later.
Marsich will appear in court next week to post bail and receive further hearing dates.