Manfred, from hacker to security expert

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    Manfred spent over 20 years exploiting flaws in video games and made a fortune from them. how did he do it? And why did he change careers and become a security expert?


    Not all hacking stories end tragically. Some of them go in different and quite unexpected directions.

    After reaching the pinnacle of a hack that quadrupled the US GDP with in-game currency, Manfred decided to quit full-time business. He came clean and became a security researcher. What first drew him into the hacking industry, and what stopped him?

    Manfred, Ultima Online Player

    Before Manfred, a talented hacker, was Adrian, a Polish immigrant who sought asylum in the United States in 1984.

    Video games have always played an important role in his life. “I grew up around computers,” Manfred says. “I'm a big gamer and I was very interested in online games. For example, my first game was Ultima Online.”

    Released in 1997, Ultima Online is a role-playing game set in the medieval fantasy kingdom of Ultima.of MIT Technology Review defined Ultima Online as a forerunner of the Metaverse, the first virtual world that transformed the video game industry by creating alternate worlds that players could interact with.

    In this Metaverse, Adrian becomes Manfred and ventures into the business of selling virtual assets to other players.

    “In Ultima Online, you can create a house within the game. That was a very popular item,” Manfred explained. “Most people don't want to spend eight hours a day mining virtual stones; they'd rather pay someone else to do it for them,” he continued.

    Manfred began building and selling virtual homes on eBay to other players, but the idea turned out to be more lucrative than he had expected.

    manfred, hacker

    After realizing that players of Ultima Online were willing to pay money to buy virtual assets, Manfred decided to take full advantage of it and create and sell objects without actually playing. Did.

    And he wasn't the only one. “Soon hackers appeared. (…) They wanted to do more than just play the game within the scope of what the game developers had intended. And they changed the game's code. “We were able to do that,” explained cybersecurity journalist Brendan Kellner.

    Manfred became a master at finding loopholes and glitches in Ultima Online, and later joined the similar Wildstar Online game to increase his income.

    In this online role-playing game set on the planet Nexus, Manfred discovers how to create and sell large amounts of virtual currency, and the business quickly becomes profitable. “I had about $12 trillion worth of in-game currency,” Manfred admitted.

    Security expert Mr. Manfred

    But life as a hacker isn't always easy. Things started to change when the game started selling currency directly to players, leaving Manfred and his hacking friends with no buyers.

    “That's when I stepped back and said, Okay, it's time to close this chapter of hacking for fun and profit and move on,” Manfred said.

    In 2017, the ringleader decided to come clean publicly.he stood on the stage of Defcon At a hacking convention in Las Vegas, he took a deep breath and exposed his illegal methods.

    From that moment on, Manfred stopped hacking and started working as a cybersecurity researcher at a gaming company, a former business competitor.

    To these groups, he says: “Let's keep our players happy, keep our employees happy, and we'll make more money as a gaming company.”

    Hacker Hunter: Next Level is brought to you by Tomorrow Unlocked, Kaspersky's cyber immunity channel, in collaboration with the Euronews Tech Talks team.

    Additional sources of information • Producer: Marta Rodriguez


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