Broadband providers forced to act over Nintendo Switch hack

17 September 2019   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Nintendo wins a High Court case to force major broadband providers in the UK to help combat piracy on Nintendo Switch.

BT, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband, EE and TalkTalk will now have to be more active in impeding access to pirate websites.

It's hoped this will make it more difficult for hackers to distribute pirated versions of games which can spread malicious and inappropriate content.

Malware has also previously been used to obtain personal information of gamers which is then used to harass users.

nintendo switch

What was the court case about?

The Nintendo Switch has frequently been targeted by hackers and pirates, with its system vulnerabilities exploited for various reasons.

At one end of the spectrum, there are gamers who like to hack into the Switch system to look to improve their gaming experience.

On the other side of things, however, hackers act to illegally download games before they're officially released. Beyond this, some hackers plant pornographic images into family-friendly games or use malware to target personal information.

Nintendo are trying to implement a zero-tolerance approach towards piracy, and they brought the case to compel ISPs to help them.

ISPs taking a role

The ruling by the High Court forces the five largest UK internet providers to take a more proactive role in tackling hacks and piracy.

Under the injunction, the five ISPs will have to block access - or, at the very least, impede access to - the four most prominent websites that hackers used to share pirated games.

While this won't eliminate the problem entirely, limiting access to these websites will make it harder for hackers to distribute pirated games.

This should mean fewer pirated copies can circulate, which means fewer opportunities to upload malicious profile images into the system and fewer opportunities to target personal details.

As it only requires BT, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband, EE and TalkTalk to act, however, there are plenty of customers who would still be able to access pirate websites, unwittingly putting their own details at risk.

Even so, Nintendo see this as a step forward for their attempts to battle piracy on the Switch system.

Piracy and hackers

The Nintendo case is the latest example of a company moving to act against hackers and pirates who can spread malicious and dangerous content along with undermining the profits and safety of their systems.

ISPs are key to this fight, with a 2017 initiative prompting them to send warning emails to customers they found were downloading pirated content.

Back then, though, it was highlighted that users determined to download pirated content just moved away from sites that were specifically targeted in the moves against piracy.

That could happen again in this case, with the four most prominent sites named in the High Court ruling giving way to other sites that distribute pirated content but aren't covered by the ruling. In which case, Nintendo could find themselves back in court.

As a side note to all this, the UK Government has been working to tackle harmful websites and content with a specific emphasis on protecting younger internet users as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017.

Unfortunately, one of the primary elements of the legislation has been held up due to a miscommunication with the European Commission, meaning it won't be brought into force until at least the end of this year.

The measures to block pornographic websites that don't include effective age verification therefore remain in limbo for another few months at least.

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