A central Indiana teenager is facing federal charges for his alleged involvement in a computer hacking scheme that ripped off $100 million worth of intellectual property from technology companies and the military, according to a release issued by the Department of Justice.
Austin Alcala, 18, McCordsville, is one of four men (referred to by the FBI as the "XU Group") who have been charged with stealing software and data from Microsoft Corp. and the Army. Portions of the stolen software, said the DOJ, contained information used to train military helicopter pilots.
"As the indictment charges, the members of this international hacking ring stole trade secret data used in high-tech American products, ranging from software that trains U.S. soldiers to fly Apache helicopters to Xbox games that entertain millions around the world," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in the release.
Two of the men have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement, but an attorney on Alcala's defense team told CNN that they were continuing "discussions with the U.S. attorney's office in the hopes of reaching a favorable resolution."
The FBI, which is heading up the investigation, suspects the four men began hacking the computer systems of companies such as Microsoft, Epic Games Inc., Valve Corp. and Zombie Studios, as well as the Army, in January 2011.
In a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Indianapolis Star, Austin Alcala is suspected of using Skype, AOL Instant Messenger and TeamViewer, under the online aliases of "AAmonkey" and "AAmonkey1," to obtain log-in credentials, personal data, authentication keys, card data, confidential and proprietary corporate information, trade secrets, copyrighted works and works being prepared for commercial distribution from Zombie Studios and Microsoft.
Alcala's specific charges, as listed in the affidavit, include identity theft, unlawful access to a protected computer network and conspiracy.