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British teen pleads not guilty to hacking campaign

A 17-year-old suspected of carrying out a cyber attack against Rockstar Games and Uber Technologies is pictured in an undated social media image. (Graphic by The Desk)

A British teenager entered a plea of not guilty this week after prosecutors accused him of a cyber intrusion against at least two companies.

The 17-year-old, whom The Desk is only identifying by his initials “A.K.,” appeared in court on Saturday to be arraigned on two criminal counts of computer misuse and two counts of violating the terms of his probation.

The teenager had been charged and convicted earlier in the year for computer intrusions against a number of western companies, including Microsoft and Nvidia, for which he received a lengthy probation sentence.

During his probation, prosecutors say A.K. used a smartphone that he was not authorized to have as he carried out additional attacks against at least two other companies.

Police and prosecutors have not identified the companies that A.K. purportedly compromised, but The Desk has learned the companies were Uber Technologies and Take Two Interactive’s Rockstar Games.

In the case of the Rockstar Games attack, A.K. purportedly obtained a massive trove of non-public data, including a cache of video files, documents and other materials related to a forthcoming edition of Rockstar Games’ popular video game franchise “Grand Theft Auto.” Some of the material began appearing on public forums associated with Grand Theft Auto earlier this month, with the hacker promising to release additional data as time went on.

A.K. also allegedly carried out a less-intrusive attack against Uber that saw him gain access to some third-party services used by employees of the ride-sharing company, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Federal law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom and the United States launched similar investigations into the attacks against Uber and Rockstar Games, with police quickly zeroing in on A.K. as a potential suspect.

Last Thursday, police arrested A.K. at his home in Oxfordshire, a county in the southeastern portion of the United Kingdom. He was held on charges related to the attacks on Uber and RockStar Games, a law enforcement source said. He was interviewed by police and agents with the FBI prior to his arraignment on Saturday, the source said.

Police believe other suspects may be involved in the attack against Rockstar Games and are planning additional arrests in the near future.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).