Update: Microsoft has delivered a swift and mighty blow with its ban stick. Everyone caught with the prerelease game is being permanently suspended from Xbox Live. Read the full notice after the break. Thanks to Relic for the tip.

Hackers have successfully downloaded Halo: Reach off Microsoft's servers nearly a month ahead of the official release. Redmond recently put the game on Xbox Live for easy distribution among reviewers, but it required a special code, effectively locking it from the public. It was also priced at 99,999 Microsoft points, or $1,250, so even without the code gamers would have been deterred – or so the company thought.

The team over at GameTuts managed to bypass Microsoft's security measures. "So after a lot of .xex cracking etc., [m]e and my team finally did it, we got Halo: Reach!" wrote Joakim, a GameTuts moderator. The group apparently decided not to leak the game to other sites, but gave access to an untold number of GameTuts users who presumably didn't agree to keep the early copy of Reach from spreading online.

Microsoft is investigating the breach, but did not say how users running the game will be punished if they're caught. "We are aware of claims being made regarding a security exploit related to Halo: Reach and are aggressively investigating the matter. We have no further details to share at this time." This isn't the first time a title in the Halo franchise has been accessed prematurely. Halo 2 and 3 were also leaked.


Notification of Permanent Suspension: Prerelease title play

This email is to notify you that your Xbox LIVE account privileges have been permanently suspended due to illegitimate prerelease title play.

Your conduct was brought to the attention of the LIVE Enforcement Team through the course of our operation of the service. The LIVE Enforcement Team has reviewed the evidence regarding this conduct and determined it violates the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and/or Code of Conduct. Because your conduct is in violation, the Xbox LIVE Enforcement Team has issued a permanent suspension.

During your suspension, you will not be able to log into Xbox LIVE. Your Xbox LIVE privileges will not be reinstated.

Customer Support is not able to modify or provide any further details about your suspension.

Microsoft expects that all customers abide by the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct provides guidelines for appropriate behavior while using the service.

You can view the Xbox LIVE Code of Conduct from the Xbox LIVE Dashboard under Xbox LIVE Policies in Account Management, or by visiting https://www.xbox.com/live/codeofconduct.htm.You can view the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use by visiting https://www.xbox.com/live/termsofuse.htm.

Note: if you are not a user of Xbox LIVE, this suspension may have been enacted due to your activity in the Zune Social. You can view the Zune Social Code of Conduct by visiting https://www.zune.net/legal/codeOfConduct.htm. You can view the Zune Social Terms of Service by visiting https://www.zune.net/legal/termsofservice.htm.

Thank you,
LIVE Enforcement Team