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  1. Nintendo has asked the court to issue a default judgment and permanent injunction to shut down several stores that sell Team-Xecuter's Switch hacks and mods. None of the defendants has responded in court so the gaming company wants third-party intermediaries, including domain registrars, to be covered by the order as well. For many years, the infamous Team-Xecuter has been a thorn in Nintendo’s side. The group offers hardware and software solutions that allow people to install and play pirated games on Nintendo consoles, including the Switch. After cracking Switch’s original technical protections in 2018, Team-Xecuter released a new range of products this year. These SX Core and SX Lite chips work on all Switch classic and Lite consoles, while previous ‘hacks’ were limited to a subset of devices. In addition, the devices no longer have to be connected to a dongle or computer to boot the consoles into the custom SX OS firmware. This wasn’t just a big improvement for end-users, Nintendo also saw it as a major threat. To stop the distribution of the new chips in its tracks the Japanese gaming giant launched two lawsuits in the US in May. One targeted the US-based Uberchips vendor and the other was filed against a group of unknown operators who run multiple stores, including TXswitch.com, SXflashcard.com and Axiogame.com. Some websites disappeared shortly after the lawsuit was filed but Nintendo believes that many have simply continued doing business under new domain names, as communication with customers also revealed. However, none of the unknown operators responded in court within the given deadline. Nintendo doesn’t expect that any of the alleged foreign store operators will defend themselves so, late last week, it asked a federal court in Seattle, Washington, to issue a default judgment with a permanent injunction. Interestingly, Nintendo doesn’t seek any monetary damages from the defendants. While the company believes that the stores are causing “irreparable harm,” the defendants remain unknown and aren’t likely to pay damages anyway. “Nintendo does not seek an award of monetary damages, and such an award likely would be ineffective here, as Defendants have refused to appear or participate in this lawsuit, despite the fact that they are indisputably aware of its existence,” the gaming company writes. Instead, Nintendo seeks a permanent injunction that requires the store operators to stop any infringing activity and hand over their domain names. As such an order may be ignored as well, the injunction should also apply to third-party services, including domain registrars and registries, to work with these sites. Without such an order, Nintendo believes it will continue to suffer losses and it sees no other options available. “[T]he threatened injury to Nintendo outweighs whatever harm—if any—Defendants would experience from an injunction. Defendants have no legitimate purpose in trafficking in illegal circumvention devices,” Nintendo writes. Because several defendants have swiftly moved to other domains and avoided other enforcement measures, the proposed injunction further covers “any successor sites,” services such as Skype, Discord, or Facebook, as well as online marketplace platforms, including AliExpress. From the proposed injunction The latter means that, if the injunction is granted, Nintendo can also target the sellers on these other platforms and services, if needed. This doesn’t just apply to shutting down accounts, it also allows for the seizure of any infringing devices. The court has yet to sign off on the proposed default judgment and injunction. If granted, it may make it a little harder for these sites to operate, but it’s unlikely that it will be 100% effective. Team-Xecuter itself is not directly affected by the injunction, but it’s not happy with Nintendo’s actions. The group previously accused the gaming company of censorship, monopolistic control, and legal scare tactics. “Of course we are not happy with this kind of censorship that is being enforced by legal injunctions that make us out to be something we are not: a copyright-infringing ring of software pirates,” Team-Xecuter tells TorrentFreak. The case against Uberchips runs separately from the one against the foreign store operators. The Uberchips operator previously requested a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and both parties are exploring options to settle the matter without going to trial. — A copy of Nintendo’s request for a default judgment and permanent injunction is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  2. Nintendo has obtained an injunction against several online stores selling Team-Xecuter modchips. The game company has thus far been unable to identify the operators but last week's indictment of several alleged Team-Xecuter members sheds new light on this case. One of the stores sued by Nintendo is believed to be operated by the 'Team-Xecuter conspiracy'. Last week, the US Department of Justice indicted three alleged members of Team-Xecuter. The group, whose modchips and software solutions help to facilitate game piracy, has long been a thorn in the side of Nintendo. The authorities didn’t mention any involvement from the Japanese gaming giant in its investigation. However, considering the close eye that it kept on Team-Xecuter, the company was likely consulted down the line. Nintendo Sued Switch Hack Stores The timing of the criminal prosecution is interesting as well. It follows legal action in which Nintendo worked to shut down ROM sites and stores that sell Team-Xecuter products. In fact, one of the stores that Nintendo has an ongoing case against, Axiogame.com, is believed to be operated by Team-Xecuter. Axiogame.com is one of the stores Nintendo sued in May. That case, which lists nine defendants in total, was filed against “John Does” as the operators are unknown. After filing the lawsuit Nintendo did its best to identify those running it, but without success. Axiogame = Team-Xecuter? The US Government appears to know more. Although all claims have yet to be proven, the Team-Xecuter indictment links Axiogame.com to game piracy conspiracy. “The enterprise also sold its circumvention devices directly to individual consumers through its own online platforms. For example, LOUARN and CHEN sold modchips through an online marketplace called axiogame.com. This website sold modchips developed by the enterprise in addition to a variety of gaming accessories,” it reads. After the criminal prosecution was announced Axiogame.com and Maxconsole.com, a review site also believed to be operated by Team-Xecuter, remained online. However, that changed yesterday and, at the time of writing, both can’t be reached. Court Grants Injunction Against Switch Hack Stores Nintendo has booked a victory of its own against Axiogame and the other online stores after a Washington federal court granted its request for a default judgment and permanent injunction. The permanent injunction requires the store operators to stop any infringing activity, destroy any infringing products, and hand over their domain names. The injunction also applies to third-party services, including hosting companies and domain registrars and registries, who can be compelled to shut the sites down as well. The injunction covers the sites Anxchip.com, Axiogame.com, Flashcarda.com, Mod3dscard.com, Nxcard.com, SXflashcard.com, TXswitch.com, Usachipss.com, Lowbr.com, Masterpl.com, Brujoon.com, Agresu.com, as well as any successors that may appear. Axiogame.com’s downtime doesn’t appear to be a direct result of the injunction, as the site was already offline before it was issued. It seems more likely that it’s related to the criminal prosecution. It will be interesting to see whether Nintendo will act on the information that was made public through the indictment. Now that it knows who’s allegedly behind Axiogame.com, it can replace the “John Doe” defendant with actual names. — A copy of the default judgment and injunction obtained by Nintendo against the various stores is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  3. Nintendo has asked a US federal court to clarify that domain registrars have to take action against new domains of online stores that sell Team-Xecuter modchips. The request comes after GoDaddy refused to transfer the domain name TXSWITCH.COM to Nintendo, as that name wasn't specifically mentioned in the existing injunction. Nintendo is doing everything in its power to stop the public from playing pirated games on the Switch console. Their major adversary is the infamous ‘hacking’ group Team-Xecuter, which released ‘jailbreak’ hacks and modchips for the popular game console. Criminal and Civil Lawsuits Last month, the US Department of Justice indicted three alleged members of the hacking group. This was a big move, but one that failed to take the group, or even its website, out of business. The same can be said for several online stores that sell modchips and hacks for the Switch and other consoles. As part of a civil lawsuit, filed by Nintendo earlier this year, a federal court in Seattle granted an injunction that required several foreign stores to shut down. Again, this was easier said than done. Since the store operators ignored all communication, Nintendo asked their domain registrars to transfer the domain names, as permitted by the court. This is precisely what happened. A few days after granting the injunction, Txswitch.com and other domains were signed over to the videogame company. ‘Hack’ Store Hops to New Domain However, a day later Txswitch already appeared to have made a comeback, operating from Stxwitch.com. This site looks nearly identical to the old one and even uses the same logo and code. This type of ‘domain hopping’ is common in pirate circles and Nintendo hoped that the registrar GoDaddy would take the new domain down as well. This would be in line with the injunction, which states that “any variant or successor” was also covered by the order. Godaddy Demands Detailed Order In the event, GoDaddy refused to take action without a court order that specifically spells out the new domain name, a new filing by Nintendo explains. “Nintendo requested that the STXWITCH.COM domain be immediately transferred as a successor or variant of TXSWITCH.COM pursuant to the Judgment. GoDaddy responded to outside counsel for Nintendo stating that they required the domain name to be listed in an order to take action,” Nintendo writes. The game company requests the court to clarify that, if new copycat sites appear, these are covered by the existing injunction. As such, registrars would be required to take action without a separate order that specifically mentions the new domain. Putting an End to the Whac-A-Mole Without such an order, pirate sites will continue to move to new domains, which means that the court has to keep issuing new orders, creating a whack-a-mole situation. “Nintendo is concerned that absent such further clarifications of the scope of the Judgment, the Doe Defendants will again domain hop, changing a letter of a domain name, and the cycle will continue to repeat with the registrar contending that the new domain is not specifically covered by the injunction and with Nintendo having to return to this Court,” Nintendo adds. By clarifying that domains of copycat sites and new variants or successors should be transferred to Nintendo, registrars such as GoDaddy will have to take action more swiftly. This doesn’t mean that registrars have to “police the Internet” and proactively scan for new copycats, the company notes, as Nintendo will track down the new domains and report these accordingly. Nintendo hopes that with sufficient clarification from the court it can prevent the piracy hack stores from “thumbing their nose at the court” while frustrating Nintendo’s enforcement efforts. Dynamic Order Isn’t Perfect Either The requested order is similar to the dynamic pirate site-blocking orders we have seen in other countries. While those deal with ISP blocking, they also allow copyright holders to add new domains names that pop up. Given the order that’s already in place, it is likely that the court will grant the requested clarification. However, this doesn’t mean that Nintendo’s troubles are over. There are plenty of registrars and registries that don’t fall under US jurisdiction, after all. So the store may move to one of these next. — A copy of Nintendo’s request for clarification and to enforce the permanent injunction is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  4. The U.S. Government recently indicted three alleged members of Team-Xecuter, the masterminds behind various Nintendo hacks. A federal court has now ruled that Gary Bowser, the only defendant in custody on US soil, is a flight risk so will remain in prison for now. In a separate civil action, Nintendo also booked a success against Team-Xecuter, by taking over domain names of several piracy hack stores. Hacking group Team-Xecuter has long been a thorn in the side of major gaming companies. The group offers hardware and software solutions that allow people to install and play unofficial games – including pirated copies – on various consoles, including the popular Nintendo Switch. Team-Xecuter often defended its work by pointing out that their products are not necessarily pirate tools. They are supporters of the ‘right to repair’ movement and back people who want to play homebrew games on their devices for personal use. The affected game companies disagree, with Nintendo front and center. The Japanese gaming company has been chasing down Team-Xecuter for years and a few months ago the company took several online stores to court for selling Team-Xecuter products. In October, these enforcement efforts reached a new level when the US Government launched a criminal prosecution of three of the group’s members. Bowser aka ‘GaryOPA’ One of the defendants is Canadian Gary Bowser. He was arrested in the Dominican Republic in September and was deported to the US soon after. Bowser was allegedly responsible for the development of circumvention devices and maintained regular contact with resellers. Bowser is perhaps best known through his nickname GaryOPA, the supposed operator and a frequent writer on the website “MaxConsole,” which regularly reviewed Team-Xecuter hardware and other hacking tools. Flight Risk In a ‘Zoom’ hearing held last week, a federal court in Seattle reviewed a request for pretrial detention, submitted by the US prosecution. It is not uncommon for criminal defendants to be released on bail pending their trial, but the US argues against this in Bowser’s case, as he’s considered a ‘flight risk.’ The court agrees. “Defendant poses a risk of nonappearance due to his lack of ties to this district, ties to Canada and the Dominican Republic, ownership of a Canadian passport, history of international travel, unstable living situation, and an uncorroborated personal history,” US Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson writes. “Based on these findings, and for the reasons stated on the record, there does not appear to be any condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the Defendant’s appearance at future court hearings,” she adds. Bowser was not interviewed by the court, which currently has no information on his family ties, personal history, or employment. That leaves the door open to reopening the detention hearing at a future date, which may change things. The Other Defendants There is no update on the other defendants at this point. Based on the information in the court dockets, Yuanning Chen from China is still at large. According to the indictment, Chen managed a manufacturing and distribution company where Team-Xecuter’s hardware was made. The third defendant, French national Max Louarn, was arrested in Canada where a U.S. extradition request was launched. The US Government sees Louarn, who’s hacking track record goes back to the early nineties, as the leader of Team-Xecuter. Louarn allegedly made Team-Xecuter’s important business decisions, arranged investors and financing, and oversaw product development and the wholesale distribution chains. Nintendo Takes Over Domains The US criminal prosecution is not the only legal pressure on Team-Xecuter. Nintendo has also seen very active on the legal front. One of the stores it sued earlier this year, Axiogame.com, was allegedly operated by Team-Xecuter. That has been shut down through Nintendo’s lawsuit. The Axiogame.com domain is now owned by Nintendo and over recent days the gaming company took over several other domains of former piracy hack stores, assisted by an updated court order. Flashcarda.com switched to the new Materpl.com domain and both are owned by Nintendo now. The same is true for Txswitch.com that switched to Stxwitch.com, Usachipss.com that moved to Nerged.com, and several other domains. Team-Xecuter Continues Despite the mounting legal pressure, Team-Xecuter is far from defeated. In fact, the site’s main website remains online. The forum remains active as well, with people privately offering help to install or buy mods. Team-Xecuter’s dedicated page for the SX product line is also still intact. This links to a list of authorized resellers. While many of these stores are offline now, a few are still actively selling. — A copy of the detention order issued by US Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson is available here (pdf). Nintendo’s filing, pointing out the newly targeted shop domains can be found here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  5. Late last week the US Department of Justice indicted three members of the hacking group Team-Xecuter. Thus far, the group's official site remains up and running and after a brief outage, the licensing service is working again as well. Still, the future is uncertain. Today we take a more detailed look at the US Government's indictment, which reveals some of Team-Xecuter's internal communications. Hacking group Team-Xecuter has long been a thorn in the side of major gaming companies. The group offers hardware and software solutions that allow people to install and play unofficial games – including pirated copies – on various consoles, including the popular Nintendo Switch. Team-Xecuter often defended its work by pointing out that their products are not necessarily pirate tools. They are supporters of the ‘right to repair’ movement and back people who want to play homebrew games on their devices for personal use. The affected game companies disagree, with Nintendo in front. The Japanese game company has been chasing down Team-Xecuter for years and a few months ago the company took several online stores to court for selling Team-Xecuter products. Last week, these enforcement efforts reached a new level when the US Government launched a criminal prosecution of three of the group’s members. Team-Xecuter’s Future Despite the criminal prosecution, Team-Xecuter’s website remains online. Other services, which are allegedly operated by members of the same conspiracy, are up and running as well, including Axiogame.com and Maxconsole.com. This doesn’t mean that there are no issues at all. In recent days several people reported problems while activating their Team-Xecuter licenses. However, this problem appeared to be just temporary. Following the news about the criminal prosecution, some third-party vendors removed associated products from their stores. That said, these remain available elsewhere and installation support is still available as well. To find out more about their future plans, we reached out to Team-Xecuter over email. This message wasn’t delivered due to a technical problem, suggesting that not everything is running completely smoothly at the moment. What we do know is that there are more people involved in the group than just the three who were indicted. The others may be able to continue business as usual, or not. Since we can only speculate at the moment, we decided to focus on the US Government’s allegations. The Defendants Over the past several days, we’ve combed through the legal paperwork of which we will provide an overview below. It has to be stressed that, at this point, all claims against the defendants have yet to be proven. Max Louarn (48, France) aka MAXiMiLiEN, aka Julien Ambroise The first defendant is Max Louarn, a 48-year-old French national who was arrested in Canada where he is being held in custody. Louarn is seen as the leader of Team-Xecuter. He made important business decisions, arranged investors and financing, and oversaw product development and the wholesale distribution chains. Louarn is a familiar name in the game hacking scene and describes himself as an “officially retired hacking pioneer.” His work reportedly dates back well into the last century when he was linked to the warez group PARADOX. In 1993 he was arrested in a Nintendo piracy case, after which he fled to Spain. That was not his only run-in with the law. Two years later he was arrested in Washington for his involvement in a credit card fraud and was accused of reselling 3,000 stolen credit cards. This eventually led to a sentence of five years and eight months for the then 23-year-old. In 2005, Louarn’s name showed up again in federal court records, with Sony accusing him of operating Divineo, a company through which he sold modified Playstation devices and modchips. Sony eventually secured a judgment of more than $5 million in statutory damages against Lourn and Diveneo. Yuanning Chen (35, China) aka Yuan Ning Chen, aka Velison Chen, aka 100+1, aka Jingui Chen 35-year-old Yuanning Chen from China is the only defendant who’s still at large. According to the indictment, Chen was involved in the management of a manufacturing and distribution company where Team-Xecuter’s hardware was made. The company, “China Distribution,” was labeled as the official wholesale distributor of several circumvention devices. In addition, Chen was also operating the Axiogame.com store, which remains online today. Gary Bowser (51, Canada) aka GaryOPA The third defendant, Gary Bowser, was arrested in the Dominican Republic last month and he has since been deported to the US. Bowser is allegedly responsible for the development of circumvention devices. He was also in regular contact with resellers. Bowser is best known through his nickname GaryOPA, the supposed operator and a frequent writer on the website “MaxConsole,” which regularly reviewed Team-Xecuter hardware and other hacking tools. Team-Xecuter’s “Fragmented Approach” The indictment sees the Team-Xecuter conspiracy as a broad enterprise that included many sites, products, and organizations that are not publicly associated with the group. This is less efficient to manage but was used to isolate all parts from enforcement threats. “The enterprise used this fragmented approach to protect the overall enterprise in the event that one device or brand were to be targeted by gaming companies, financial institutions, and law enforcement,” the indictment reads. This fragmented setup involved, among other things, various third-party developers and hackers, operating the distribution chain through a Chinese company, facilitating sales through Axiogames.com, and promoting the products through Maxconsole.com. To hide the identities of the people involved Team-Xecuter relied on reverse proxies and bulletproof hosting providers. In addition, communication channels were mostly encrypted, using PGP and apps such as Signal and Telegram for sensitive messages. The indictment stresses that the success of the business relied on the availability of pirated games. To make sure that this was in order, they allegedly “created” and “supported” ROM sites, which were then highlighted on MaxConsole. “Accordingly, the enterprise undertook efforts to create and support online ROM libraries that could be used by the enterprise’s customers. The enterprise directed users to ROM libraries through the enterprise’s website, maxconsole.com,” the indictment reads. Tapped Communications Several claims in the indictment are backed up by internal communications from and between the defendants. How the US Government obtained this isn’t clear, but it seems to confirm the various connections. For example, Louarn sent the following note to an alleged co-conspirator. “You are always panicky about things and not taking time to analyze and see the big picture to make real money. First, obviously we know how to host. Just for sites you know we own, we have Maxconsole, Team-xecuter etc. which are 1000 times more traffic than your site ever had. “Second, of course[,] Axiogame will be back up, it is already back but we have some issues which I am trying to understand. Axlogame has over 200 orders per day…” Another email, sent by Louarn to Chen, goes into detail about payments requested by chip developers, asking Chen if it’s possible to put up some pre-orders or pay them in another way. Bowser, for his part, sent an email to a business partner detailing how he was responding to enforcement efforts by Nintendo. “They have been trying hard to crack down on everything, removing ‘roms’ from various sites which devices like Classic2Magic need, but we have [a] plan in the works to have secure links to these retro rompacks on [a] protected server, so it will not be a problem.” Investigators Purchased Devices The investigation into Team-Xecuter started years ago. The indictment mentions several occasions where investigators from the Western District of Washington bought devices that were trafficked by members of the conspiracy. This includes the Team-Xecuter branded SX Lite, SX Core and SX Pro, all jailbreaking solutions for the Nintendo Switch. Investigators bought an SX Pro kit from an ‘authorized’ seller in July 2018, and several others later on, which they installed on separate Switch consoles. Other devices, allegedly trafficked by the conspiracy, include the “Gateway 3DS” and the “Stargate” for the Nintendo 3DS, the “TrueBlue Mini” for the Playstation Classic, and the Classic2Magic, for Nintendo’s SNES. Copies of these devices were all bought by investigators. According to the allegations, the defendants were aware of the illegality of the devices. In order to frustrate enforcement efforts, they would use false merchandise descriptions, tariff classifications, and value descriptions. For example, defendant Louarn advised his co-conspirator Chen to declare a shipment of circumvention devices as memory card adaptors, with a value of $0.20 each. The Charges While not all individual claims would be seen as criminal necessarily, the indictment argues that taken together, it clearly is a criminal conspiracy. In total, the three defendants each face 11 felony counts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and to traffic in circumvention devices, trafficking in circumvention devices, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If proven, these can lead to lengthy prison sentences. For now, however, all defendants are presumed innocent, until the opposite is proven in court. — A copy of the indictment, as released by the US Department of Justice, is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  6. The U.S. Government has indicted three members of the infamous group Team-Xecuter, the masterminds behind various Nintendo hacks. Two of the members have been arrested and are in custody., but the group's website remains online. According to the Department of Justice, Team-Xecuter is a criminal enterprise that profits from pirating video game technology. Team-Xecuter is widely known for creating ‘hacks’ that bypass digital restrictions on Nintendo consoles. The group has been chased by Nintendo for years, but today, their operation has become the center of a criminal case prosecuted by the US Government. The US Department of Justice just announced that two members of Team-Xecuter were arrested recently. Max Louarn, a 48-year-old French national, and the 51-year-old Gary Bowser from Canada are in custody and charged in a criminal conspiracy. The indictments also name a third defendant, a Chinese man named Yuanning Chen (35), who remains at large. The three indicted members are just a minority of the total group. According to the US authorities, there are more than a dozen Team-Xecuter members scattered around the world. These members help to code and create the Nintendo hacks, but they are also suspected of being involved in the production and sale of these devices. The indictment portrays Team-Xecuter as a criminal enterprise and notes that its members did their best to evade law enforcement by using a variety of brands, websites, and distribution channels. “These defendants were allegedly leaders of a notorious international criminal group that reaped illegal profits for years by pirating video game technology of U.S. companies,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These arrests show that the department will hold accountable hackers who seek to commandeer and exploit the intellectual property of American companies for financial gain, no matter where they may be located.” At the time of writing the official Team-Xecuter website remains online. Various online stores are also still selling the group’s chips, including the latest SX Lite, and the SX Core for the Nintendo Switch. Team-Xecuter has repeatedly stressed the legal uses of its hacks. Speaking with TorrentFreak, Team-Xecuter defended its work just a few weeks ago “We are firm believers of the right to repair legislation, a growing movement to counteract the monopolistic control over hardware which is the property of the consumer who paid for it in the first place,” Team-Xecuter said at the time. According to the Department of Justice and the FBI, this was nothing more than a facade. “The overwhelming demand and use for the enterprise’s devices was to play pirated videogames. To support this illegal activity, Team Xecuter allegedly helped create and support online libraries of pirated videogames for its customers, and several of the enterprise’s devices came preloaded with numerous pirated videogames.” The three defendants are charged with 11 felony counts including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and to traffic in circumvention devices, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Defendant Bowser resided in the Dominican Republic when he was arrested in September and has since been deported to the US. Louarn is in custody in Canada pending a U.S. extradition request, so he can stand trial in the US. — This is a breaking story, we may amend this article and will report on the exact details of the charges in future reporting. Source: TorrentFreak
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