Knock and Talk
Knock and Talk is the term used for Nintendo's tactics when dealing with prominent hackers. Thanks to a leak on December 21, 2020, we have an idea of how the process goes down. Going forward, Knock and Talk will be referred to as K&T.
A K&T team is comprised of multiple people, namely an engineer/manager, counsel from NOA and the local area, and investigators (one within the homebrew scene and one from local law enforcement). This team meets together at a location, a hotel for example, to discuss plans. During this time, the local investigator is actively monitoring the person of interest. The investigator alerts the team of when the person is home.
Initial contact is done by two team members, by directly confronting the person at their home. The terms "acknowledge, engage, and propose" are used to describe this first conversation. This K&T plan has steps to take depending on whether the person seems willing or not to cooperate with the team.
If the person of interest refuses to work with the team, they are given a 12 hour window to contact the team. The team regroups to wait for contact, while the investigators monitor both the internet and physical activities of the person closely. After the 12 hour period is over and no contact has been made, the team withdraws from the location. Nintendo's central office, NCL, then considers further action and instructs the local team members of any legal actions that needs to be taken.
If the person of interest is open to working with the team, a settlement agreement is put together, including a NDA and terms of collaboration. They are given one week to respond and are heavily monitored by investigators during this time. Once agreed to, NCL signs off with a final approval.
In 2018, Etika shared information from a close friend's experience that closely lines up with all the K&T tactics described in the leaked documentation.
One specific instance of K&T being used is laid out within the leaks, codenamed Belgian Waffle, and concerns the 3DS hacker Neimod. Initial preparation by the K&T team happened on July 13, 2013, and the plan was carried out over the following two days.
The team was positioned at a nearby café, before being alerted by investigators that Neimod had arrived home from work. Two team members, one from NOA and the other a CSID Online Investigator, approached the home and explained the situation to Neimod's parents. Shortly after, Neimod came to the door and agreed to speak with them. The conversation was done in their backyard garden, it is clear the team specifically refrained from actually entering the house at all. Neimod agreed to then sign an NDA in order to continue the discussion.
The team brought NERD into the discussion, along with noted subtle hints of collaboration. Neimod is stated to have hesitated in signing the settlement agreement, and requested more time. The NOA representative appears to have made it clear that the only other option was to face a lawsuit from Nintendo, as Neimod quickly agreed to sign later that day. The following day, apparent "missions" were discussed for Neimod, with one mentioned being analysis on the Gateway flashcart.
Hearts and Minds Initiative
The documentation also outlines the planned next steps for the K&T team. Suggestions for next targets were made, namely Yellows8, marcan, and geohot. They planned to develop profiles for each, including pin pointing their real identities and locations. A "Hearts & Minds Initiative" is mentioned as well, with a goal of reaching out to the hacking community, leveraging Neimod to influence them, and paint a more positive image of Nintendo.
It appears Nintendo understood the risk of aggressively going after individual hackers, worried it could drive the hacking community further underground, outside of their reach. Instead it seemed less risky for them to have the community work for them. By painting Nintendo as friendly, discovered exploits would be more commonly shared directly to the company. Having the K&T team go after certain subjects like Neimod would give them greater influence in the community as well.