Feeds

Account pretexters plague Xbox Live

Account thieves numerous and brazen

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

When Kevin Finisterre got his virtual guns handed to him in an online game of Halo 2 last Thursday, he called his opponents on their none-too-subtle hacks that skewed the game in their favour and turned the battle into a rout.

His opponents - who rarely died while racking up nearly 100 kills on Finisterre's team - didn't take the accusations well. Among a tirade of name-calling, one player threatened to steal his account, the security researcher told SecurityFocus.

Finisterre did not put much store in the threat until the next day, when he found his girlfriend's account - which he had been using the day before - kicked off the system with a message that someone else was using her gamer tag on Microsoft's service, Xbox Live. Finisterre confirmed that he could no longer log onto the service, and a message on the Account Management page indicated that the account had been suspended.

After more than a half dozen calls to the support staff of XBox Live, which Halo 2 uses to authenticate players, the status of the account is still in limbo.

"There has been no real explanation why we have been banned," Finisterre said. "But it is odd that a day after they threatened to steal the account, someone else is in control."

The ban, originally for two days but now extended apparently indefinitely, is a symptom of account stealing, a tactic used by an up-and-coming breed of gamers that take losing as an affront and hack online game systems to give themselves an overpowering advantage. Research by both Finisterre and SecurityFocus has turned up more than a dozen complaints on online forums of Xbox Live accounts being stolen. And support people that Finisterre spoke with said that a handful of other incidents had happened on the same day.

The players that have stolen accounts are not shy about their activities. Several clans - the teams of players that have banded together to play first-person shooter games - have boasted online about their ability to steal accounts.

"We here at Infamous steal at least 10 accounts a day depending on there (sic) levels," claimed a site belonging to Clan Infamous, which bills itself as "the best account stealing + boosting clan" in Halo 2. "If you talk s**t we will mod on your account until it is banned. If the levels on it are good, we will use the Credit Card on your account to then change the gamer tag."

SecurityFocus made several attempts to contact members of the clan, but without success.

The clan's website, however, does detail the method its members use to steal accounts. Rather than hacking computer servers, the clan's account stealers claim to rely on social engineering to convince support personnel at Microsoft - and its subsidiary Bungie Studios, the creator of the Halo game series - to help the attackers take control of the accounts. To do so, the players spin a story about something going wrong with their account - from a crashed box to a sibling changing the password - and ask for help "recovering" the data.

"You call 1-800-4my-xbox, pretend to be that person, make up a story about how your little brother put in the information on the account and it was all fake," stated the Clan Infamous website. "You might get one little piece of information per call, but then you keep calling and keep calling, every time getting a little bit more information...once you have enough information you can get the password (and) the Windows Live ID reset."

Account hijacking in online games is nothing new. Online gamers have frequently been the targets of password-stealing Trojan horse programs that grab credentials so data thieves can break into a victim's accounts. In December, Chinese authorities arrested a 44-member ring of thieves that had mined stolen accounts for virtual goods to sell online.

In the latest case, grabbing the accounts gives that attackers fodder to boost their own rankings in the Halo 2 grading system. Halo 2 is not the only game plagued by the issues. Victims have also complained about losing accounts for Microsoft's Gears of War and Sega's Phantasy Star Online - the latter a massively multiplayer online role-playing game whose accounts can be mined for virtual items.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.