Reports have begun rolling in from numerous sources that Microsoft has once again unleashed the banhammer on Xbox Live subscribers with modified Xbox 360 consoles.
The latest batch of bans represents the second major sweep by Microsoft, and may have ties to the release of Gears of War 2. The first wave took place during the Halo 3 launch, perhaps revealing an anti-piracy strategy by Microsoft which is tied to major product launches.
At this time, the exact number of consoles banned are unavailable, however the current wave of bans has yet to finish. Administrators and members of a number of communities dedicated to the modification of Xbox 360 consoles are scrambling to identify just how Microsoft was able to identify their modifications. Several users have claimed that they had made numerous efforts to avoid detection through the use of hardware and software based "stealth patches." Some users who have been banned even claim that they had disconnected their network cables while playing pirated copies of retail games, but were still targeted in the sweep.
Xbox Live’s Major Nelson thus far is the only one to comment on the situation officially, stating on his blog "In our our continued effort to keep gameplay safe and secure for our community of more than 14 million members, Microsoft has taken action against a small percentage of Xbox 360 consoles that have been illegally modified in order to play pirated games." He continues "The health of the video game business depends on customers paying for the genuine products and services they receive, both from manufacturers and the local companies that support them. We will continue to employ and bolster anti-piracy security measures to counter piracy in the gaming industry and improve security in the Xbox LIVE community."
While the "modding" community thus far has been unable to determine the exact method of detection used to single them out, theories related to the use of recently leaked press copies of Fallout 3 and Saints Row 2 seem to be a common factor in those that have been already banned. The bans enforced are reported to be permanent, with no method available to contest the decision through Microsoft.