Nov 20 2013 - 5:54 pm

Esports site settles lawsuit after allegedly using gamers' computers to mine Bitcoin

A competitive gaming league that secretly installed Bitcoin-mining software on its members’ computers has agreed to a $1 million settlement with the state of New Jersey to avoid criminal prosecution
Tim Sampson
Dot Esports

A competitive gaming league that secretly installed Bitcoin-mining software on its members’ computers has agreed to a $1 million settlement with the state of New Jersey to avoid criminal prosecution. 

This settlement is just the latest development in a case stemming back to last spring, when the eSports Entertainment Association (ESEA) installed the mining code on the computers of some of its 600,000 worldwide members. The mining operation generated $3,713.55 worth of the digital currency for ESEA, while at the same time wreaking havoc on some of its users’ hardware. 

Bitcoin mining, which uses a computer’s processing power to do the complex math that brings new bitcoins into the economy, is usually done with a specialized “mining rig.” Many of the victims report fried graphics cards and other damage to their gaming PCs as a result of the organization's actions.

When complaints first began to appear on ESEA message boards, cofounder Eric Thunberg originally feigned ignorance before trying play off the fiasco as a poorly executed April Fools’ Day joke. Since then, the blame has shifted to a rogue employee

Thunberg and the other organizers have tried to make amends by donating the ill gotten bitcoins to charity, adding additional funds to next year's prize pool and giving gamers a free month of membership, but that wasn't enough for the state of New Jersey, which began a criminal investigation into the matter. This settlement brings that investigation to a close without formal criminal charges or ESEA having to admit to any wrongdoing.

“This is an important settlement for New Jersey consumers,” Acting State Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a statement. “These defendants illegally hijacked thousands of people’s personal computers without their knowledge or consent, and in doing so gained the ability to monitor their activities, mine for virtual currency that had real dollar value, and otherwise invade and damage their computers."

Hoffman was acting on behalf of 14,000 computer owners across New Jersey and the United States who allegedly had their machines used as part of the Bitcoin mining operation. 

Under the terms of the settlement, ESEA, which organizes competitive tournaments for games like Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike, and League of Legends, has "agreed to refrain from deploying software code that downloads to consumers’ computers without their knowledge and authorization." The company will also have to submit to a 10-year compliance program and establish a dedicated page on its website to specify the type of data it collects, how the information is collected, and the manner in which it's used.

If ESEA is able to meet these terms and conditions over the next decade, the company will only have to pay $325,000 of the $1 million settlement obligation. 

Despite consenting to the agreement, Thunberg issued a strongly worded statement to Ars Technica rebuking the attorney general's account of what transpired.

"We want to make it clear to our community that we do not agree with the Attorney General's account of the Bitcoin incident.

"The settlement that was signed makes explicitly clear that we do not agree, nor do we admit, to any of the State of New Jersey's allegations. The press release issued by the Attorney General about our settlement represents a deep misunderstanding of the facts of the case, the nature of our business, and the technology in question." 

This is not the end of ESEA's legal troubles however. A class action suit against the company, filed in California, is still ongoing. 

Photo via walt74/Flickr

Jan 22 2017 - 9:12 pm

Hearthstone's NA vs CN event ends in controversy

The Chinese players were coasting to victory, but their final win provoked minor outrage.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

China's best Hearthstone players turned back a team of the best North America had to offer—but the event did not end without controversy.

In the final game of the event series, China's "Lvge" made a play that seemed to defy logic. He played Dirty Rat on turn two, risking pulling a hugely advantageous early Tomb Pillager or Gadgetzan Auctioneer for his opponent Keaton "Chakki" Gill.

However, according to the American players the Chinese casters and Lvge's teammates were screaming to play the Rat when he picked the card up, and with no white noise in the player headsets Lvge could likely hear the noise and take the cue.

The play promoted a furious series of tweets from Tempo Storm founder and Team NA player Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk—though the tweets were later deleted.

Chakki and other players have also commented on the controversy, claiming that they raised the issue of players being able to hear the casters. The other members of each team were also watching the stream of the game, meaning they could see the hands of the opposing player.

There was little that could be done to address the controversy unless the admins immediately halted the game in progress, as the game was tournament point for the Chinese side.

Despite the controversial finish, team China had run away with the tournament to get into that position. Thanks to two wins by "OmegaZero" and "Lovelychook" over the two day event, Lvge was left with only Chakki left to beat.

China had also won the first of the three showpiece events, before Canada's Julien “Cydonia” Perrault had single-handedly won the second for team North America.

Jan 22 2017 - 10:55 pm

EnVyUs survive Team Liquid comeback for overtime win

It was the closest game of the Major so far.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Turner Sports

Team EnVyUs survived a mammoth comeback attempt from Team Liquid to chalk up an overtime victory in their first match of the ELEAGUE Major.

Despite Team Liquid fighting back against eight match points, the French side were able to hold on and win in triple overtime in the closest game of the Major so far.

Drawing a relatively even map of Cache, the two teams were evenly matched in the early going. EnVyUs put up four unanswered rounds but Team Liquid didn't let the French run away with it, and drew it back 4-4. The teams remained relatively inseparable throughout the first half as Liquid defended well, allowing EnVyUs just a three round lead at half time.

However once the second half got started, the French side went off. EnVyUs AWPer Kenny "kennyS" Schrub was in top form picking off his American opponents, and it took a superhuman effort for Liquid to even get a T round. That came in the form of a sniper quadkill from Josh "jdm64" Marzano, who almost single handedly dragged his team back into this match.

The quadkill came in the nick of time, as EnVyUs were leading 15-7 and were just one round away from sealing the match.

Liquid rallied, eating into the lead of their French rivals. In a comeback that looked unfathomable Liquid managed eight rounds in a row to take it to overtime as the score hit 15-15.

After the teams were inseparable in the first period, a second overtime was called for. This time it was EnVyUs who needed to mount a comeback, as Liquid took it 20-18 and a match point of their own. They put themselves ahead at 21-19, but levelled things up once again.

In the third set of overtime rounds, EnVyUs were finally able to put the Legend side away. The French team put together four straight round wins to win the match at 25-21—a match that very nearly slipped away from them.