A teenager in Manchester has been arrested after being caught selling a 'booting tool' used to attack and kick players of the hugely popular Call of Duty online game.
The software used to launch the attacks, 'Phenom Booter', was traced to the UK by game publisher Activision, which found it for sale on an forum allegedly connected to the unnamed 17 year old.
The youth is currently under arrest and is likely to be charged with offences under the Computer Misuse Act, Police have said.
Such shell tools have spread around the dark underside of gaming in recent times as a way of 'booting' or 'kicking' rival players by locating their IP address from online gaming websites using a technique known as ARP poisoning.
Anyone using such a tool can wield considerable negative power, removing one or more players from games hosted on servers, even making it impossible for anyone to use them at all.
The server or servers attacked were not named but the incident must have been on a large enough scale to attract the attention of the normally remote Activision. Call of Duty Modern warfare or Black Ops were probably affected, both of which are making the company serious amounts of cash.
Activision also hosts master server lists, which players scroll through to choose specific games, but Phenom Booter would not normally be effective in attacking these servers.
Phenom Booter is by no means the only such tool that is being marketed to annoyed game players - a tool known as 'Atomic Booter' is probably more notorious.
Clearly Activision wants to send a message to anyone marketing such tools that they risk being tracked down and prosecuted. Actually finding the people who use them to attack real games is much harder because IP addresses used by rogue players are rarely traceable to anything other than an ISP with many customers.
Call of Duty uses a series of software ports from 28960 onwards but few ISPs bother to monitor traffic through them, or relate this to individual users.
"Programmes marketed in order to disrupt the online infrastructure not only affect individual players but have commercial and reputational consequences for the companies concerned," said Detective Inspector Paul Hoare of the Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU), which was involved in the arrest.
"These games attract both children and young people to the online environment and this type of crime can often be the precursor to further offending in more traditional areas of online crime," he said.
The youth becomes the first person ever to be arrested in the UK in connection with an alleged online gaming offence.
See also: Call of Duty: Black Ops review