Paul McLoughlin has been handed a suspended 12 month sentence under computer misuse legislation, as the result of what investigators say was an attempt to boost gamer status. The software, called “Istealer”, was injected into numerous programs, including the game Prototype, so that McLoughlin could then play those game without being charged.

Mr McLoughlin was held to have stolen online gaming credentials from over 100 other users as well as accessing over 20 of those. The former student was able to do this by tricking other web users into downloading software which enabled him to retrieve their personal data. The 22 year old Liverpudlian pleaded guilty to the theft and accumulation of other gamers’ usernames and passwords.

The conviction was secured under Section 3A of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which prohibits the adaptation of a computer program to secure unauthorised access to another computer.

The matter was initially brought to the authorities’ attention by the University of Salford, having received a complaint from a US citizen in connection to the theft of personal information. The Manchester based institution assisted the Police Central eCrime Unit, along with security company McAfee, in their endeavour to trace the perpetrator of the theft. The police requested that McAfee analyse the malware used by McLoughlin, according to Alex Hinchliffe, a malware research manager of the security company.

The view of the investigators is that the suspended sentence result was given as the crime was committed with intent to access free gaming facilities only rather than to amass financial gain. Under the legislation, the offence could potentially have resulted in a two year prison sentence as well as the issue of a fine. It seems that McLoughlin considered his actions to have been fairly innocuous but there is no doubt that his activities could have resulted in a far worse result for him than the suspended sentence that he received.