Homeland Security Tries To Make Dubious Connection Between Mod Chippers And Money Laundering

from the don't-they-have-something-better-to-do? dept

We’ve written about the mod chip saga for years. Basically, mod chips let you change what a video game console can do. It’s often used by people who want to play unauthorized games, but there are legitimate reasons to modify your video game system. Considering that it’s a purchased item, you would think that the owner would have every right to tinker with it however they saw fit — but you would be wrong. Buzz writes in to let us know that mod chips are back in the headlines as again as customs agents raided 32 homes and businesses to look for mod chips. It’s not clear why the feds should get involved in what someone does to legally purchased hardware, but that’s the world we live in these days. Thanks to the DMCA, having anything that can circumvent copy protection is illegal. The press release quotes from the Department of Homeland Security are really stepping into ridiculous territory, though: “These crimes cost legitimate businesses billions of dollars annually and facilitate multiple other layers of criminality, such as smuggling, software piracy and money laundering.” That’s right. First cite bogus claims about imaginary “losses” and then, to make it actually sound like a big deal, try to imply that it’s involved in organized crime by saying it’s associated with smuggling and money laundering. Of course, there wouldn’t be any issue with “smuggling” if the law wasn’t criminalizing modifying a product that you legitimately purchased.

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Comments on “Homeland Security Tries To Make Dubious Connection Between Mod Chippers And Money Laundering”

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black and white says:

you know you are a pirate when....

You have an issue with someone altering copy protected hardware, software, and have an issue with it…


I believe the fines for a personal issue is 100,000 us dollars and up to 3 years in jail. At least that was on a piracy notice a friend got from the attorney general.. My comment was stupid should hurt..

Any pirated item that you show to someone else, or touches the internet in any way is track able. You know this and run the gambit anyways. What makes people think Microsoft can not scan the firmware of its Xbox 360 from the live connection, just because they don’t doesn’t mean they won’t, and then there are flash upgrades that can disable the Xbox if it’s altered?

What if I pack a ps3 with c4 and add a mod chip that makes it blow after 3 hours or 3 days of play? Is it possible… yes it is. This is the world we live in so get used to it or move to another country

Mr Man says:

Re: you know you are a pirate when....

“What if I pack a ps3 with c4 and add a mod chip that makes it blow after 3 hours or 3 days of play? Is it possible… yes it is. This is the world we live in so get used to it or move to another country”

What? That doesn’t even make any sense… What if I wire a VCR up to blow in 3 hours? Ban them too. Alarm clock? Better get it as well. Don’t forget those evil kitchen timers! Also, you do know that I could use my truck to transport said items. Better outlaw that too just in case I decide to get uppity.

eli says:

these companies are lucky that stuff can be hacked and modded. that the only reason i bought the wii and the 360 to begin with, was because it COULD be modded. and the only reason i havent bought a ps3 is, because it hasnt been hacked fully yet, i would have to dump at least another $200 to make it a worthwhile and fun gaming experience (sony get your head out of your ass with your video game systems!).

i actually bought a few games for wii and xbox, but i refuse to pay out the ass for shitty titles that have no dev team and an astronomical budget. every console has only ever had about 5 or less games that are actually WORTH buying. if i’m gonna drop $60 every time i want to get a new game, i sure as hell better be getting my money’s worth, and its rarely ever possible.

thats why i love my pc. because i built the damn thing so its not illegal to put the hardware in that does what i want from the get-go

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re:

“every console has only ever had about 5 or less games that are actually WORTH buying”

I think you bulls-eyed the problem. 5 games out of god only knows how many. The creators of the other games are asking themselves “why aren’t our games selling? They can’t suck because we made them so it must be piracy.”

I have a modded xbox. I didn’t steal the system, I got it for free because my dad purchased a $5000 peace of software. (only because I could put linux on it, If not I would have a gamecube) Since then I have probably payed over $2000 for games and accessories, gave my sister her own Xbox, who in turn purchased games and accessories for it, purchased an Xbox 360 and spent a few grand on games and accessories for it too. All because you can put Linux on the original Xbox. I don’t pirate my games, I used the mod to play videos from my file server (I’m not paying $600-$1000 for a media center extender that only works with WMV.)

Justine says:

Re: Nice

I agree, SimonTek. I am closing my eyes, sticking my fingers in my ears and playing possum for the next 536 days, 6 hours and 14 minutes, praying to God that I’ll wake up and find out that the past six years of my life have been a Patrick Duffy/Dallas style bad dream. Our priorities are upside down.

We STILL haven’t found Osama freaking Bin Ladin, but man, we got those chip modders, those damned stinking no-good commies. Lock the little bastards up and throw away the key. Today they’re modding game chips: tomorrow, they’re flying airplanes into buildings. Yeah. Someone get this guy out of office before he does any more damage to America, please.

reed says:

Re: Re: Show me the stolen goods

“Please show us where the US stole the resources. I get so tired of bullshit liek this.”

Are you serious Norman? Or are you just trolling or stupid? Maybe both…

We have stolen and guarded so many resources that are not our own it isn’t funny. For one we took the majority of this country away from the rightful owners the Native Americans. We now control the majority of the oil production in Iraq.

Really I don’t know where you are coming from. Perhaps you should try picking up a history book and study it to find out the not so nice truth about our country.

Anonymous Coward says:

prius pirates

What about all those hydrid pirates that converted their cars to be Plugable. Think of all the billions the oil companies are loosing because of these hackers. I am sure they broke a few DMCA laws to optimize the Prius software (or firmware, whatever) to run 100% electric whenever possible.

That was a joke, but who would be surprised if car companies take a page from the software companies and start blaiming their customers for their own short comings and lack of profits. They might was well jump on the DMCA band wagon like everyone else.

chris (profile) says:

what is the connection to money laundering?

i get selling overpriced goods to launder money i.e. you need to transfer money to me for a drug deal, so i sell you a car worth $100 for $10,000.

but since most modchips sell for less than $100 and the purveyors have lots of trouble keeping them in stock… how do you use them to launder money?

also, what wisdom is there using the sale of an item that is illegal in a number places (modchips) to launder money for other illegal activities? that’s like using your street corner pot business as a front for your heroine operation… universally stupid.

Bill says:

Homeland Security = Gestapo?

Is it just me, or do these ever-increasing violations of our civil rights by Bush’s Department of Homeland Security smack of actions by Hitler’s Gestapo prior to and during WWII? I can’t believe the system of checks and balances has eroded to the point where the executive branch can just point at somebody or something they don’t like and make up some idiotic reason to arrest folks, and it’s completely LEGAL! The biggest campaign contributers and lobbyists (MPA, RIAA, big oil, pharmaceutical companies, etc) are able to coerce our top leaders to “take care of” people they don’t happen to like and it just happens with no recourse for citizens and no accountability. We should seriously be really afraid of the direction this country is headed. Just for saying this, they could legally call me a threat and lock me away. Basically, if you are educated enough to actually notice how they are slowly turning this country into a police state, you are considered a “threat” in their eyes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Homeland Security = Gestapo?

Absolutely on target, Bill – and well said.

George Orwell only missed his guess by about 17 years – 1984 vs 2001.

It also reminds me of The Green Frog Metaphor:
Placed in boiling hot water, he struggles to get free.
Placed in cool water that is warmed slowly, he is too weak to get out by the time he realizes that he’s in trouble.

Only possible because people don’t read history (or much else) anymore, combined with rampant partisanship.

Jeff (user link) says:


“These crimes cost legitimate businesses billions of dollars annually and facilitate multiple other layers of criminality, such as smuggling, software piracy and money laundering.”

Sooo any day now, we’ll be seeing the Federales shutting down gas stations, liquor stores, pet stores that sell dogs, Wal-Marts, my house, truck stops, bars, pawn shops, sporting goods stores and grocery stores…right?…and then raiding the houses of all of their customers…right? After all, we wanna remain consistent and protect all of the fuckin’ loser-ass kids in this country from everything that could possibly open doors to things that could potentially harm them…right?


Buzz (profile) says:


Man, the comments alone were worth submitting this article to Techdirt! You guys make me laugh. (Seriously, my wife came in wondering what the heck I was cracking up for. She liked the comment about Osama.) My favorite part from the cited article is Microsoft’s statement:

“This is an important step in the continuing fight against piracy and the threat it presents to the global economy and consumers throughout the world.”

I never knew that piracy presented a threat to the global economy. Oh, thank you, Microsoft, for saving us!

is it a crime? says:

My neighbors kid modified his civic

It sounds like a vacuum cleaner, scrapes the curb when pulling in, and vibrates like a blown speaker when playing the latest Britney Spears, or who ever these kids listen to these days. I’m glad DHS is involved, I feel safer, just like when the FBI can’t keep an illegal immigrant from sneaking into the San Onofre Nuclear plant…by falling asleep in a train car!

Tyr says:


If anything that can help circumvent copy protection then goodbye screwdrivers! Can you imagine how hard it would be to mod an Xbox without on of these puppies. And I used a half melted pen to open my gamecube. Pens can now help bypass copywrite protection. And don’t get me started about the internet. And of course the modders went to School.

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