Hackers go on World of Warcraft killing spree

You now may need to be more vigilant about cybersecurity when playing popular video game titles like World of Warcraft.

Having application control software and quality layered security measures in place can help you protect everything from online bank accounts to personal photographs and email login information. However, you now may need to be more vigilant about cybersecurity when playing video games as well.

Recently, a flaw in the popular multiplayer online game World of Warcraft killed off characters in the realm’s major metropolises, Forbes reported. The incident, credited to a prank, was not a major disruption since World of Warcraft’s gameplay easily resurrects dead avatars. However, the disruption killed thousands of the game’s more than 10 million participants.

“Apocalypse has come to World of Warcraft: whole cities have been massacred in the online adventure game, leaving nothing but smoking wreckage,” Infosecurity wrote in an October 8 article.

Blizzard Entertainment, the game’s developer, took steps to address the massive die-off and to correct the exploited error. One of the company’s community monitors for the game wrote on a WoW forum that the loophole is now fixed.

Is video gaming hacking a trend?
This is not the first time that Blizzard has found its products targeted by hackers this year. In May, multiple user accounts for the game Diablo III were stolen by hackers and allegedly sold to unsuspecting players, geek.com reported. In August, cybercriminals were able to steal personal information from people with a Battle.net account, including email addresses and individual security questions. However, hackers did not take credit card information, personal names or other key identifying information, and The Associated Press reported that all of the passwords taken were encrypted.

While Blizzard Entertainment has found itself at the center of a number of hacking incidents, it is not the only video game company that has been breached by cybercriminals. Perhaps the highest profile incident occurred last year, when the names, birth dates and possibly credit card numbers of Sony Playstation video gamers were stolen by a hacker, according to The Wall Street Journal. In another 2011 incident, InformationWeek reported that the login information for about 1.3 million Sega online gaming accounts was stolen.

In comparison to big targets like banks or government agencies, hacking into a video game may seem like small fries. While a 2011 article from The Guardian postulated that video game hacks emerge from the frustration gamers may have video game manufacturers, 77 million credit card accounts is no chump change.

“With these particular [hacking] groups, profile raising and publicity seeking activities is more likely to be about raising issues that they have concerns about,” said Dr. Tim Watson, head of De Montfort University’s computer forensics and security group, according to The Guardian. “Just like journalists, hackers need to find a forum that’s going to connect with as many people as possible, and the sweet spot is gaming. Millions of people are connected online via games, and these aren’t like online banks: the security isn’t as good, yet you give them a lot of personal details.”

Hacking video games for good causes
However, not all hackers who target video games seek to create mischief and mayhem. For example, a 10-year-old girl from California revealed flaws in the popular game FarmVille that allowed players to progress more quickly than originally intended, according to CNET. The U.S. Navy in April even introduced a program that paid hackers to gain access into video gaming systems to discover sensitive information, ZDNet reported.

One hack even led to an endearing story about the start of a happy marriage. In 2008, one man hacked into the video game Chrono Trigger to create a totally new realm that ended in the proposal (She said yes).

Does the latest World of Warcraft incident give you pause before playing a video game online, or do you trust your software and know-how to keep you safe? Why do think that so many video games have been hacked recently, and what have video game companies do to beef up security? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think about this issue!

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.