Computing

Exclusive: The Australian Raid On SuperDaE And How A Prank Over The Next Xbox Ended In Corporate Espionage

“They want to ruin my life. I know it.” The man behind these words is none other than the infamous SuperDaE: a man of many names, aliases and occupations. This week he was raided by Western Australian Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with a corporate espionage investigation. His alleged transgression? Disseminating highly secret information about the next Xbox, and the attempted sale of a Durango development kit. SuperDaE, aka Dan Henry now sits alone in his Perth home wondering what will happen next, but you won’t believe the story that led to this point.

Dan Henry — which isn’t actually his real name either — somehow got hold of information relating to the next Xbox, as well as a Durango development kit some months ago. As a prank, he tried to sell the device on eBay to generate a bit of publicity and share the information with the world. Meanwhile, as more information came to light, Henry shared it with gaming sites like our sister-site Kotaku. As a fan of Microsoft and the Xbox, he wanted to spread the word and get people pumped for what to expect in the next-generation of consoles.

His own special brand of evangelism backfired on Tuesday, however, when it culminated in his door almost being rammed in by Western Australian Police accompanied by an agent from the FBI. It was a raid, and they took everything.

To understand this bizarre story, we need to go back a few months.

***

After leaking precious Durango information to the press, Henry felt pretty good about the message he helped spread. He wasn’t taking any financial benefits from the information he was handing on, rather his payment came in the form of infamy for his handle: SuperDaE. Days after the leak, Henry was paid a visit by a man by the name of Miles Hawkes.

Hawkes is a serious character. Very serious.

He spent five years as an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, before moving up in the world to spend the next 15 years as a Detective with the Seattle Police Department’s Arson and Bomb Squad. From there, Hawkes moved into the private sector, spending two years as an executive security consultant with Vulcan Incorporated — an umbrella company that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen established to handles Microsoft’s various investments and holdings. It was a hands-on role, with Hawkes’ responsibilities including developing and executing security strategies for Microsoft executives while abroad and developing “crisis management plans” for when everything went sideways.

Hawkes then moved into Microsoft itself for six years with the Anti-Piracy and Confidential Information Management team, and for the last two months, he has held a position as the Senior Project Manager in Microsoft’s IP Crime Team.

It doesn’t get more hands-on than Miles Hawkes.

Hawkes knocked on Henry’s door about a month ago and wanted to talk. The only topic of conversation? Durango.

Henry said that after an in-depth conversation between himself, Hawkes and a private investigator Microsoft allegedly used to track down SuperDaE, about the nature of the leaker’s knowledge. According to Henry, they wanted to know how deep his knowledge went.

According to Henry’s account of the conversation between the three, negotiations broke down quickly.

“I gave them quite a bit of information,” Henry tells me. He’s talking to me using an iPad he’s borrowed from a neighbour and SIM card the FBI didn’t seize during the raid.

“They weren’t happy with what I gave them, though. They wanted lots of information about the system I had, right down to how I get the information that I leak out. I said that we could have fixed it all together. I was prepared to fly back with them to Redmond to assist in their investigation. Basically they just wanted information so I could do their job for them,” he said. “‘Fuck you’, I said to them, ‘I’m not doing your job for you’”.

The pair reportedly left after that, trading only the occasional email with Henry after the fact.

“I didn’t have any respect for Microsoft after that,” Henry tells me, deflated. “I support Microsoft and Durango, but now I know they’re just a corporation trying to fuck a guy’s life over,” he adds.

***

Flash-forward to one week after the emails stopped and Henry awoke one morning to a loud bashing on his front door. Dazed, confused and dressed only in his underwear, Henry stumbled to the door to find nine officers of various law enforcement agencies there to meet him, armed with a battering ram and a search warrant.

The warrant was for the search of his premises and the seizure of any and all “computer materials”, but first, Henry was instructed to don clothes so he could be searched with his decency in tact.

“They then went to the living room, and they took everything.”

“Around ten servers are gone, hard drives from over a decade ago right up to today, they picked up everything. My Retina MacBook Pro is gone, too. I’m only talking to you from a borrowed iPad and a SIM card they didn’t find.”

The FBI agent and the eight officers from the Western Australian Police Service left, boxes under arm, full of SuperDaE’s life.

https://twitter.com/superDaE/status/303758749426933760

“They even took my cards, along with a shitload of papers and documents I had printed regarding various ‘activities’ I had been up to over the years,” he said.

They took everything, except the Durango development kit they presumably came for. That is safely squirrelled away somewhere in the United States.

Update: Gizmodo has since revised the location of the Durango. SuperMTW has reached out to us and said he doesn’t have the developer console at the centre of the scandal.

All of this hit home when Henry had to tell his girlfriend about his predicament. She broke down in tears in front of him repeating quietly: “I’m never going to see you again, am I?”

***

What happens next in the case is completely at the discretion of the investigating officers. The presence of an FBI agent, however raises questions, ones that Henry says he has answers to.

“The FBI agent told me they’re trying to seek a loophole to extradite me. They can’t extradite me straight up but they’re looking for those loopholes to do it,” Henry says. A trial to extradite him would turn him into the Kim Dotcom of the gaming world. Already he’s trying to get up a Twitter campaign he’s calling #freesuperdae.

The charge he’s looking at — if Microsoft, eBay and PayPal who are at the centre of the dispute decide to press charges — is corporate espionage and dissemination of confidential documents as well as misuse of a computer and/or carrier service. All fairly serious charges that, when added up, can come down to some pretty serious jail time either here or in the US.

Henry is currently considering his legal options, but has vowed to fight whatever charges come his way.

Should he be worried? Probably, and not just because of his Durango shenanigans.

***

“On my one computer alone, there are things that date back to years ago that can incriminate me in other cases,” Henry says, defeatedly.

By his own admission, he intentionally breached several other gaming companies looking for information. Valve was one of the companies he admittedly breached.

“There’s an FBI investigation into Valve from a year or two ago. They had their systems compromised by none other than SuperDaE,” he admits to us. Valve are looking to get their own back against SuperDaE now that he’s in a vulnerable spot, as are Epic Games, Blizzard and Sony, who also claim to have fallen victim to SuperDaE.

For those transgressions, he probably should be worried.

Right now, SuperDaE, also known as Dan Henry — real name Dylan — is in legal limbo. He has no money, no cards, no tech, no idea what will happen next. All he can do is pray to the video game gods to show mercy.

“They want to ruin me,” he repeats at the end of our interview.

“Microsoft could have had Durango back if they were nice about it.”


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