Hacker pleads guilty to stealing Nintendo secrets

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

A California man is about to face serious consequences for a string of crimes that include breaching a gaming industry giant. Palmdale resident Ryan Hernandez has pleaded guilty to federal charges of both hacking Nintendo systems (computer fraud and abuse) and possessing child pornography. Hernandez reportedly used phishing to swipe the credentials of a Nintendo worker in 2016 and used that to steal confidential info about the console maker and promptly leak that to the public. He even leaked details of the Switch before its March 2017 debut, according to court records. Moreover, he resumed hacking Nintendo systems in June 2018 despite the FBI catching him and eliciting a promise that he would stop.

In Hernandez' renewed campaign, which ended when the FBI seized his devices in June 2019, he apparently broke into "multiple" Nintendo servers and stole a host of secret info, bragging about it on Discord and Twitter while leaking some of the data elsewhere. He even shared potential vulnerabilities in Nintendo's network with his community.

The plea includes a recommended sentence of three years in prison, $259,323 in restitution to Nintendo and registration as a sex offender. Hernandez will face sentencing on April 21st. That deal would be a far cry from the maximum sentences of five years for the hacking-related charges and 20 years for child pornography, but it isn't trivial. For Nintendo, this also sends a message to would-be data thieves hoping to get a peek at the company's future.