In recent years, the gaming world has undergone a remarkable evolution. The rise of free gaming platforms offering a plethora of PC games without any cost has opened up new horizons for both gamers and hackers.
However, this “free” world of cracked and modded games often comes with potential hazards and strategies employed by hackers.
According to Accenture, the global gaming community is on track to reach a staggering 3 billion active participants worldwide within a year.
Naturally, cybercriminals have recognized the lucrative potential within the gaming sector. Recent data points to an ongoing barrage of cyberattacks targeting the gaming industry.
The universe of cracked and modded Games
The Internet is a really cool place, and the arrival of free games has only made it more fun and enjoyable because gamers, who do not want to spend money on AAA titles, and the latest releases, can simply head over to these websites and download modded versions of these gamers for free.
These free and modded games providers continuously expand their game libraries, leaving many to wonder about the origins of these video games and the intriguing process behind modifying these games without eliciting copyright disputes from game developers.
This phenomenon beckons us to explore the alluring yet potentially perilous world of cracked and modded games.
According to a report by Akamai, web application attacks, which leverage vulnerabilities in online programs like mobile games, have surged by an astonishing 167% year-on-year (YOY) from May 2021 to April 2022.
Concurrently, Kaspersky Lab unveiled a 13% surge in malicious software assaults on games during the first half of 2022, compared to the same period in the previous year.
Meanwhile, gamers often engage in microtransactions, purchasing character upgrades, tools, and skins.
These microtransactions generate substantial revenue, with The Business Research Company projecting the online microtransaction market to reach a staggering $106.02 billion by 2026, boasting a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.9%.
Additionally, the gaming community has demonstrated considerable philanthropic efforts, as exemplified by gamers’ donations of $145 million to charity via Twitch between 2011 and 2019, including a remarkable $42 million in 2019 alone.
Video game hacking and modification: Is risking data worth the fun?
Among the most intriguing facets of cracked and modded games is their appeal to budget-conscious gamers who might lack the means to afford legitimate game copies.
These games offer an avenue for individuals to partake in titles that they might otherwise miss out on. However, this accessibility comes at a potential cost, as many modded games require users to disable their antivirus software during installation, raising concerns about potential security vulnerabilities.
Another domain that has caught the attention of gamers and hackers is the use of cloud in gaming.
According to Allied Market Research, the cloud gaming market soared to $244 million in 2020 and is projected to expand exponentially to a remarkable $21.95 billion by 2030.
Cloud-based gaming platforms are well-received by gamers due to the vast array of titles available at an affordable price point.
Furthermore, dedicated gamers are increasingly turning to their personal PCs, liberating themselves from the need to purchase the latest console hardware.
Since 2019, the viewership of Esports, or Electronic Sports, has surged from 397.8 million total viewers to an impressive 532 million in 2022, accompanied by an increase in prize pools and betting activities.
The year 2022 alone has witnessed Esports betting valued at an estimated $300 million, with a growing number of betting providers catering to this burgeoning demand. All these numbers are enough to make the video game hacking a prime objective for hackers and game modders.
The Intricacies of video game hacking
Cracked and hacked versions of games, when not developed under open-source legality, raise concerns about violations and breaches of regular application functionality.
These modifications typically manipulate the game’s code to trick it into unlocking restricted features or services, often involving the manipulation of tokens or rerouting data through private servers.
While these modifications can introduce players to enhanced gaming experiences, they often demand extensive access permissions, thereby potentially exposing sensitive user data.
A notable incident involving Bandai Namco, the company responsible for iconic games like Tekken and PacMan. The company fell victim to a ransomware attack, prompting a warning to players that their data may have been compromised.
Bandai Namco’s statement acknowledged the possibility of customer information leakage and emphasized ongoing efforts to assess the extent of the breach and identify its cause.
The ongoing battle between hackers and gaming companies is again exemplified by the case of Denuvo, an anti-piracy technology introduced in 2014.
Denuvo was designed to shield games from being cracked, but its defenses have been breached multiple times.
The Chinese warez group 3DM gained notoriety for claiming to bypass Denuvo’s protections, leading to the release of cracked versions of Denuvo-protected games.
While the effectiveness of Denuvo remains a subject of debate, it underscores the enduring conflict between hackers and game developers.
The dark side of video game hacking and modding
Modding, a long-standing tradition in the gaming community, has taken a really bad turn with the infiltration of malicious software.
Hackers embed Trojans within the unauthorized mods and cheat engines, often targeting gamers seeking an advantage in their gaming experiences. These threats are particularly insidious, as they masquerade as legitimate mods.
A prime example of video game hacking incidents being a nuisance is the recent breach of Rockstar, a prominent gaming company.
The intrusion involved an attacker gaining access to Rockstar’s internal Slack channel, impersonating a member of the IT team, and subsequently obtaining login credentials.
The attacker then proceeded to leak over 90 videos showcasing early development footage of GTA VI.
Hackers effectively exploit gamers’ desire for cheats and shortcuts, enticing them to download malware-infested mods through misleading advertisements and videos.
Some hackers even offer “private versions” of cheats for a fee, introducing a financial element to their exploitation.
Inadvertently, gamers become conduits for malware distribution, underscoring the importance of responsive awareness and vigilance.
The vulnerability of the gaming community to malware is a harsh reality.
In 2020, over 61% of gamers fell victim to malware attacks and scams, highlighting the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures.
As gamers unwittingly become pawns in the hackers’ schemes, the gaming industry must fortify its defenses and educate its audience about potential threats.
The world of cracked and modded games presents a multifaceted phase where the pursuit of free gaming experiences intersects with potential security issues.
As hackers exploit the desires of gamers seeking shortcuts, the gaming industry must rise to the challenge by reinforcing its cybersecurity protocols and fostering awareness among its community.
While the allure of free games is compelling, it should not overshadow the lethal consequence it can bring.
In a world where everything can be bought with a click of a button, hackers aim to capitalize on gamers’ excitement, and desperateness.