A South Korea-based Overwatch hack reseller is on the cusp of feeling the full force of the country’s strict gaming laws. The unnamed 28 year old faces up to a 12-month suspended prison sentence and a probation period lasting two-years for breaching both the Game Industry Promotion Law and Information and Communication Technology Protection Law.
The hacker is understood to have amassed upwards of $180,000 by selling his Overwatch hack, highlighting just how profitable the practice can be. A lucrative resell market exists throughout the world and nefarious hackers are eager to capitalize on it. South Korea has some of the most draconian legislation to curb the problem, achieved notably by criminalizing hack development and resale, as well as match fixing and account boosting.
The more severe sentence in this case deviates from the usual slap on the wrist delivered by South Korean authorities due to the sizeable revenue accrued from sale of the hack. It follows a flurry of activity from the digital branch of Seoul National Police Agency in partnership with Blizzard to catch and sentence offenders. Earlier this year, a number of hackers and fixers received a variety of fines and probation sentences.
Part of the problem with hacking in South Korea is caused by the PC bang culture, which makes tracking offenders difficult. Players don’t need to have their own copy of the game, can create accounts in relative anonymity, and because payment is usually by the hour in cash, there are few records of who has passed through the gaming cafe. Cheaters can therefore operate undetected.
In response, a fed up Blizzard made changes to how players log in to Overwatch in South Korea back in early 2017. Creating an account now requires players to input a social security number and those logging in from foreign Battle.net accounts must purchase an Overwatch license. The idea is the social security number provides a deterring degree of accountability, while the paywall for playing with a foreign account will put off hackers who in the past could easily open a new account free of charge after getting banned.
Cheating will always exist in some form or another, but it seems South Korean authorities are eager to limit the damage, though even the higher echelons of eSports is affected with notorious match fixing and boosting scandals.