Today, electronic art confirms that hackers stole a huge amount of data from the video game publisher. A dark web forum poster claimed that the attack received 780 gigabytes of data, including the source code for FIFA 21 and EA’s Frostbite game engine used by FIFA, Driving me crazy, Battlefield, Star Wars: Seasons and anthem.
“We are investigating a recent intrusion into our network in which a limited amount of game source code and related tools were stolen,” an EA representative said in a statement. The representative added that “no player data has been accessed and we have no reason to believe that there is any risk to player privacy”. VICE first reported the attack. EA has confirmed to WIRED that it is not ransomware.
The EA hack is the latest in a series of high profile video game source code leaks. Last year, Valve, Capcom, Nintendo and Ubisoft reportedly suffered similar data breaches. And there was a ransomware attack earlier this year Cyberpunk 2077 Creator CD project Red. (The developer said Thursday that there is reason to believe that the data got on the internet.) The source code is an attractive target for hackers because it describes exactly how the sausage is made – why push these Button deactivated The Trap, or exactly Where Your ball must land on the head of an opponent for optimal damage. If it falls into the wrong hands, source code can compromise the integrity of online video games, their servers, and even the safety of gamers.
“Hackers are definitely targeting more high-profile games and companies in recent years than before,” says OverkillLabs, who formerly ran the gaming piracy-focused CrackWatch subreddit, “either for their reputation or to prove to big companies that” their security has weaknesses, or simply to get money from them. “
While ransomware has been the dominant topic of recent high profile hacks, video game source code is in and of itself a high-value commodity, especially for cheat makers. Popular cheats are often developed by pasting parts of the game’s original source code into other software. Part of the reasons video game companies are suing cheat makers is because they use aspects of the game code in their illegal products. (These suits often quote Copyright Infringement, or more specifically, using copyrighted code without official permission.)
“If they have access to the source code, they can easily see what the game is working on and how to adapt their cheats to the game,” says OverkillLabs. “For example, if the game had anti-cheat, they could easily find a way to use that.”
A member of the game leak scene we call Ridley says shooter games like EAEA’s Battlefield are popular targets for cheat makers and therefore source code hackers. In these games, he says, “hacks make a lot more sense” and enable super powers like auto aim and the ability to see through walls.
Another use for this source code is modding. Designing tools and fan-created content is easier when fans don’t have to reverse engineer the game’s code.
Not all source code leaked is used for evil. Amateur video game historians and custodians covet these schemes for the inner workings of games. The increasing control that gaming companies have over their products – whether it is purely digital downloads or forced internet connections – outlines gamers who view games as cultural products. And a lot of game companies don’t have great track records of keeping their own games alive. “How many times have we seen a game permanently taken offline because the developer or publisher went under or simply thought it was unprofitable?” Says Jaycie, a gamer who collects source code.