Hundreds of Xbox owners have reported in online forums in recent days that they were banned from Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming service, after trying to play "" online with a modified console.
Xbox Live users say they've been banned from their boxes after trying to play "Halo 2" on modified consoles.
Console makers have long used any means available to thwart illegal copying of games. Critics say a modded Xbox can yield online cheating that ruins the gaming experience for paying customers.
"," gray-market add-ons that allow game consoles to run imported discs, and homemade software, began circulating for the Xbox shortly after the game machine went on sale four years ago. Hackers who equip their Xboxes with mod chips and other upgrades, such as bigger hard drives, have gotten the consoles to perform all sorts of unauthorized tricks, including running and serving as .
Microsoft and other hardware makers have long fought against mod chips, chiefly because those chips abet game piracy. The software giant's activities culminated in atwo years ago in which federal lawmakers took over a Web site used to sell mod chips and swap illegally copied games.
Billy Pidgeon, an analyst for research firm Zelos Group, said console makers have long used any means available to them to thwart mod chips and halt illegal copying of games. The advent of online gaming for consoles has raised the stakes, he said.
Asby CNET News.com, Microsoft has also used Xbox Live since its inception to crack down on mod chips and other hacks. The Xbox Live user agreement states that "Xbox Live may only be accessed with an unmodified, except for Microsoft-authorized repairs and upgrades, Xbox video game console. Any attempt to disassemble, decompile, create derivative works of, reverse engineer, modify, further sublicense, distribute or use for other purposes either the hardware or software of this system, is strictly prohibited and may result in termination of your account and/or your ability to access Xbox Live."
The agreement further gives Microsoft authority to "retrieve information from the Xbox used to log onto Xbox Live as necessary to operate and protect the security of Xbox Live and to enforce this agreement."
Initial Xbox Live antihacker measures focused on checking a