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U.S. charges four with stealing $100 million in software, data

A Spanish Games blogger is silhouetted against the logo of Microsoft's Xbox during the Xbox Play Day 2014, before the Gamescom 2014 fair in Cologne August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

By Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four members of an alleged international computer hacking ring were charged with stealing more than $100 million worth of software and data - some of it used to train military pilots and some related to Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Xbox gaming console - the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

Two of the four - a 28-year-old New Jersey man and a 22-year-old Canadian man - pleaded guilty to charges contained in an indictment unsealed earlier in the day, the agency said.

Prosecutors said the ring gained unauthorized access to the computer networks of Microsoft and some of its partners between January 2011 and March 2014 to steal source code, technical specifications and other information.

Some of the intrusions were directed at the Xbox One gaming console before its November 2013 release. The hackers tried to build a counterfeit version of the console, according to the indictment.

The hackers also stole information about pre-release versions of the “Gears of War 3” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” video games, prosecutors said.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft declined to comment on the case.

The men were also accused of logging into a U.S. Army network to steal simulator software for the Boeing (BA.N) Apache attack helicopter, the Justice Department said.

Those attacks occurred after the ring hacked into the network of Zombie Studios, a Seattle-based video game developer contracted by the Army to make the training software, according to the indictment.

The men allegedly obtained access to the computer networks partly by using the stolen user names and passwords of employees at the partner firms.

Sanadodeh Nesheiwat of Washington, New Jersey and David Pokora of Mississauga, Ontario pleaded guilty to charges in Delaware federal court, the Justice Department said.

Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland, and Austin Alcala, 18, of McCordsville, Indiana, were also charged in an 18-count superseding indictment. A fifth member of the ring who is an Australian citizen was charged under Australian law for his alleged role in the conspiracy, the agency said.

Tuesday's charges marked the second big hacking case announced by the Department of Justice this year.

In May, the agency charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets.

(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Ros Krasny, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)