Bungie’s Vow to Relentlessly Pursue ‘Anonymous’ Cheaters Was No Bluff

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In August 2023, video game giant Bungie filed yet another copyright infringement-based lawsuit targeting up to 50 individuals involved in developing and selling cheat tools for Destiny 2. What set this apart from similar lawsuits was a two-line warning in the complaint's introduction. Elsewhere, the statement could've been dismissed as typical anti-piracy posturing, but here, Bungie's relentless deanonymization of targets sends a powerful, credible message.

Destiny 2When attempting to tackle large-scale infringers of any kind, there’s no single approach that can stop the most determined.

Introducing new technical measures may have some effect, while a strategic lawsuit alongside measured, public messaging are usually more effective when combined rather than delivered in isolation.

Yet there are other considerations too; warnings that are heard too often lose their impact, threats that in time become parodies of themselves are ultimately received as such.

When Bungie filed yet another lawsuit against alleged developers, marketers, support staff, and sellers of Destiny 2 cheating software last August, the complaint’s introduction contained a two-line statement. Even at the time it sounded more like a promise than a threat; 10 months later Bungie’s actions are speaking just as loud as its words.

bungie-warning

Ramping Up The Pressure

Filed August 1, 2023, at a Washington court, Bungie’s complaint targets alleged members of the cheat developer/distributor operation, Ring-1. Bungie had targeted the group previously, obtaining settlements from at least three members, but with many loose ends to tie up, the video game developer was back to finish the job.

The complaint alleged the usual violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions. On top, Civil RICO (racketeering: wire fraud, criminal copyright infringement, money laundering), violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Breach of Contract, Interference with Contractual Relations, and Civil Conspiracy.

With the progressive addition of new claims, an element of uncertainty is introduced.

Relentless Pursuit of ‘Anonymous’ Ring-1 Defendants

For facilitating cheating in a video game, the list of claims in Bungie’s complaint would likely prove baffling to the layman. The harsh reality is that all would amount to nothing if Bungie failed to deanonymize the defendants and for some, Bungie didn’t even have an online pseudonym to work with.

In the original complaint, Bungie said it knew the real names and general whereabouts of Joshua Fisher (UK), Jacob W. Mahuron aka ‘Pragmatic Tax’ (Delaware), Matthew Abbott aka ‘Nova’ (West Virginia), and Travers Rutten (Australia). David Hastings aka ‘J3ster’ and Jesse Watson aka ‘essewatson3944’ were matched to their pseudonyms, but physical locations were unknown.

Other pseudonyms identified included Calc, Cypher, Khaleesi, god, c52you, lelabowers74, Framework, Sequel, 1nvitus, and Sinister. As for defendants 11-50, they were little more than ‘John Does’.

After 10 months of investigations, Bungie now wants to file its first amended complaint, which reveals the progress to date.

Bungie’s Deanonymization Efforts Pay Off

In November 2023 and April 2024, Bungie received authorization to conduct third-party discovery with the aim of unmasking more defendants. That appears to be paying off.

David Hastings aka ‘J3ster’ has been identified as Jose DeJesus. Andrew Thorpe, for whom Bungie did not list an online handle, now has one: Cypher. Others have real names too: Khaleesi (Ryan Power), Sequel (Kichang Kang), and Sinister (David Brinlee).

Named and pseudonymous defendants are also being methodically associated with their alleged roles at Ring-1.

They include Joshua Fisher (middleman reseller and payment processing service), Mahuron/Pragmatic Tax (support staff), Abbott/Nova (support staff), Rutten (reseller), Watson (reseller), Calc (administrator/developer), c52you (developer), lelabowers74 (developer), Framework (administrator), and 1nvitus (reseller/operator of 1nvituscheats.com)

Even the John Does are being slowly unmasked. Former Does include TheGuy, Beatred, CommunityMods, CM, Palace, VincentPrice, Esswan, Admiral, TomDickHarry, Rob, Staylocked, Five-star, Horror, Elitecheatz.co, Mihal Lucian, Nathan Bernard, BlackMamba, BillNye, Banek192, Shoppy.gg, and Finn Grimpe/Finndev. The remaining yet-to-be-unmasked Does now number 31-50.

Bungie has linked several defendants to specific addresses, including Mahuron (Pragmatic Tax) and Abbott (Nova) who have been positively identified and served.

Bungie Intends to Continue Indefinitely

“Ring-1 is an extensive and sophisticated enterprise which goes to extraordinary lengths to conceal its scope, its reach, and the extent of its wrongful conduct,” Bungie’s proposed amended complaint informs the court.

“The members of the enterprise are careful to conceal their identities as much as possible in an effort to escape accountability for the harm their activities cause to the players, developers, and producers of games like Destiny 2. These efforts have included changing pseudonyms, falsely claiming that people have left the enterprise, and even falsely claiming that people involved in the enterprise have died.

“Bungie has not been deterred and has found them anyway.”

Bungie’s proposed amended complaint is available here (pdf)

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