A 28-year-old man in South Korea faces a year in prison for hacking Overwatch. The sentence, reported by South Korea’s SBS News and Dot Esports, handed the hacker one year in prison and two years of probation for illicit activity related to the hit online multiplayer game. The particularly steep sentence is a result of both the ongoing nature of the activity and the fact that the individual generated 200 million Korean won (almost $180,000 USD) from Overwatch-related hacks.
The hacker’s charges stem from the violation of two Korean laws: the Game Industry Promotion Act and the Information and Communication Technology Protection Law. In the last year, Overwatch developer Blizzard Entertainment has worked with the Seoul National Police Agency’s cybersecurity department to crack down on hacks that compromise the integrity of the high-profile game, particularly due to its prominence in the esports world.
“Cheating on the Asian Overwatch server is endemic and widespread,” Kotaku reported in a story on Overwatch hacking last year. “On the Battle.net forums and Reddit, complaints about hacking South Korean players’ too-accurate headshots, immediate gun-downs and even DDOS attacks against winners in competitive mode are widespread.”
Hacks for a game like Overwatch can take many forms, including scripts that enable perfect aim, match-fixing and a rank manipulation practice known as boosting.
“Doing anything to manipulate your internal MMR or Skill Rating (i.e. Boosting or Throwing) is not fine,” Overwatch Creative Director Jeff Kaplan wrote in a forum post last year. “Penalties for boosting and throwing are about to increase dramatically.”
The new sentence isn’t the first to be handed down by the Korean government for game-related hacking, but given the fact that sentencing usually results in large fines, it is notably harsh. Laws meant to deter gaming hacks went into effect in the country last year and stipulate that violators may face up to $43,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.