If you're looking to "hack" your way towards a better video game score OR tempted to download a copy of the latest title through your friendly neighborhood file-sharing service, don't bother. It's almost certainly loaded with malware, according to new research.
Anti-virus provider AVG analyzed scores of such hacks and cracks found through various metasearch services, and discovered that more than 90% of them contained some form of malware or malicious code.
Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at AVG Technologies wrote in a blog post that users should think twice before trying to download these files.
"Next time you are sick of grinding on Azeroth and thought about downloading gold hacks to save time or if you’ve been tempted to download the latest title from a torrent or file sharing site to save money, think again," Ben-Itzhak wrote. "You could well be playing right into the hands of the cybercriminals and that could be more costly in terms of time and money than you think."
With games costing up to $50 and more, it is tempting to click on a few links, download a file or two and begin your quest to conquer the evil wizard, but you'd be doing yourself, your computer and fellow gamers a huge disservice.
But hacks aren't the only concern.
Kaspersky Labs researchers recently released new information on a hacking group apparently of Chinese origin known as "Winnti." The group reportedly targets video game companies, attempting to pilfer source codes for online games and digital certificates of legitimate software vendors.
According to Kaspersky, the group could be monetizing their enterprise by accumulating in-game currency OR “gold” in online games and converting it into real money. This not only impacts the wallets of gamers, but also impacts the game itself. The firm notes that, at this time, 35 companies in 15 countries (mostly in SE Asia) have been, at one point or another, impacted by "Winnti."
Need even more incentive to play it straight? AVG estimates that those infected could number into the hundreds of thousands.
According to AVG's rough math, "assuming that just 0.1% of the gamers playing the top five titles go looking for a hack – a highly conservative estimate – that means 330,000 people are potentially at risk of falling victim to game hack malware, which could lead to the loss of any legitimate, paid-for gaming assets, as well as sensitive personal data such as bank details and email or social media passwords."
If hacked, you could lose your game account (since these fetch cash on the open online market), or worse still, thieves could swipe your bank account details, hack email accounts or circumvent your social network credentials.
AVG suggests the following measures if you want to play on:
- "DO NOT download cracks, hacks, trainers or unofficial patches.
- "DO download patches only from the official game provider’s website.
- "DO vary your login details. Use different usernames and passwords for every game account, even for game forums.
It might be time to play by the rules. If it's too good to be true, chances are it isn't worth the risk.