A View from David Kushner

Razor Bust

Razor1911, one of the oldest and most notorious video game piracy groups, has been busted. The Feds finally nabbed Razor1911’s leader, 38-year-old Sean Breen, and sentenced him to a staggering 4-years in prison. Breen created the group in 1991, eons…

  • March 10, 2004

Razor1911, one of the oldest and most notorious video game piracy groups, has been busted. The Feds finally nabbed Razor1911’s leader, 38-year-old Sean Breen, and sentenced him to a staggering 4-years in prison.

Breen created the group in 1991, eons before anyone even thought about game piracy; we’re talking pre-Wolfenstein. Over the years, Breen assembled a sprawling and devout network of pirates from Stockholm to Seattle; they’d pose as game reviewers or the editors of some new gaming magazine, in order get early code.

Once they got the goods, a team of crackers would circumvent the copyright protection wares. Then a team of distributors would release the stuff in password protected IRC chat rooms. At last count, there were more than 10,000 games in Razor1911’s treasure cove. The video game industry loses about $3 billion per year to pirates, and Razor1911 were the chief offenders. They were also the most brazen, running an elaborate website touting their feats - and producing their own razor-wielding superhero cartoons online.

But it turns out Breen was up to much more than these games. Shortly after being busted, he confessed to bilking Cisco Systems out of $600,000 worth of hardware. In an elaborate scheme, he posed as one of Cisco’s customers, and had the goods FedExed to a storefront he rented, specifically for this purpose, in Oakland. Once he got the stuff, he sold it cheap on the grey market.

But, despite this bust, surely the piracy will wage on…

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.