Malicious hackers often try to live like an invisible thief who makes a living exploiting security flaws, but this is often difficult. Yet one man says he succeeded by selling hacked goods and currency from online games through websites for 20 years.
In an article by Motherboard, Manfred, as the man likes to be called, talks about his existence as a hacker and how he claims to have earned his money with it for twenty years. The story cannot be confirmed with certainty, but this is an issue that plays on a larger scale and is not limited to Manfred’s story.
The man is said to have hacked more than twenty mmos, including Guild Wars 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, and sold the ‘stolen’ stuff on all kinds of gray markets for real money. He did this for twenty years and was able to pay for his education with the money raised. The hacker’s activities, one of which he demonstrated at the recently ended Def Con event, would have gone largely unnoticed.
Manfred started as a student hacking the game Ultima Online, an online game in which players have a limited amount of territory for constructing buildings. In the game, he found a way to remove other players’ houses and then take over the building land. He started taking hacking seriously from the moment he sold his first Ultima Online castle on eBay; the castle earned him two thousand dollars.
Manfred has since stopped hacking and works as an analyst at a company that focuses on digital security. “Slightly less romantic, but more honest,” says the anonymous hacker. The addition of in-game purchases is such an important part of the developers’ revenue model these days that the hacker does not want to interfere with game makers at this point. Manfred wouldn’t tell Motherboard how much money he made in total from the hacks, but he does claim to have considered himself a wholesaler of the currency and goods of various online games.
A screenshot from Ultima Online
Update August 1: the article has been adapted in response to reactions to the original article.