Man pleads guilty to hacking Nintendo & possession of child pornography

A 21-year old Palmdale, California resident Ryan S. Hernandez has pleaded guilty to hacking into Nintendo Co. LTD’s servers and stealing proprietary information. The accused has admitted to committing several federal crimes including hacking and possessing child pornography content.

Hernandez was arrested back in June 2019, when he was a minor, but by then he had already hacked into the servers of Nintendo Co. twice. The first time he managed to access Nintendo’s servers was in 2016. Reportedly, Hernandez used very basic phishing techniques to trick Nintendo Co.’s employees into handing over access credentials of the company’s corporate network to him. 

Using the information he hacked the company’s servers and obtained critical details about unreleased Nintendo products including the Switch Console, which he later leaked online. He conducted the cybercrime with the help of an associate and used the online ID “RyanRocks” to access Nintendo’s servers.

In a press release, the Department of Justice highlighted details of how the FBI discovered child explicit content on Hernandez’s electronic devices.

In June 2019, FBI agents searched Hernandez’s home and seized numerous electronic devices, including computers, hard drives, and circumvention devices used to access pirated video games and software. On those devices, they discovered thousands of confidential Nintendo files. Forensic analysis of his devices also revealed that HERNANDEZ had used the internet to collect more than one thousand videos and images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, stored and sorted in a folder directory he labeled “Bad Stuff.”

Hernandez, also known as Ryan West, was contacted by the FBI for in October 2017 while the bureau was investigating the hack. The accused managed to evade detention at that time after giving commitment to the investigating team to stop malicious activities and stating that he clearly understood the consequences of such actions.

Ryan’s tweet over FBI’s visit

However, he hacked Nintendo Co.’s servers the second time in 2018 and stole the company’s popular video games, developer tools, and gaming consoles.

According to the accused, he carried out the second attack not to earn quick cash but to exhibit his hacking prowess and become popular on social media platforms like Discord and Twitter. He even administered an online chat forum dubbed Ryan’s Underground Hangout to discuss Nintendo network’s vulnerabilities and stolen information about unreleased products.

He agreed to plead guilty and pay $259,323 as restitution to Nintendo after getting assurance from defense and prosecution attorneys that he will serve only three years in prison. However, it now depends upon the judge who can sentence him to a maximum tenure of five years for computer hacking and 20 years for possessing child pornography.

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