Mainstream gaming outlets have been reporting on the incident of EA hiding the fact that many of their users were hacked back in September, 2013. However, all of these outlets seem to be leaving out a very key aspect as to how this story came out and why: A former games journalist for Australian games media came forward to out various forms of corruption within the games industry, following the strong push-back from gamers against unethical media practices in the form of #GamerGate.
Originally, the anonymous journalist came forward to expose a number of unethical practices in the gaming industry, one of which included a publisher going so far as to cover up a hack attack that compromised more than 40,000 users on the Firemonkeys forum. This is the developer behind EA’s highly popular Real Racing 3.
Well, the source took the story to Kotaku’s Australia outlet where they reported on the misdeed by Electronic Arts, and then went as far as to actually ask them if this was true, after they tied together a time-line of events that literally proved that this event took place.
Also, props to Kotaku Australia for following through with the tip. They could have just sat on it to spite the former journalist.
Nevertheless, EA, bound by the vice of indisputable facts, issued the following response to Kotaku…
“EA Firemonkeys became aware of a cyber attack on a stand-alone Firemonkeys forum in September 2013,
“Firemonkeys took immediate action by shutting down the forums and taking the server in question offline to prevent potential misuse. An investigation determined that a small number of customer email addresses were potentially obtained, but revealed no evidence of other information being accessed including passwords, names, security questions, payment information or any other sensitive data that could permit access to an online account. To be clear, no EA systems or databases were affected outside of the singular Firemonkeys forum. Firemonkeys took swift and appropriate action under the circumstances to address the issue.”
This is the exact kind of corruption gamers have been talking about – here in the U.S., it’s considered a breach of trust when a company fails to disclose when any kind of sensitive user information has been illegally accessed. I’m curious if EA will have an excuse if further investigations take place, as to why they thought it necessary to cover this up… for a whole year?
Let’s not forget that gaining access to e-mail accounts and forum data can still be quite damaging, even if EA’s rep above tries to damage control the situation. Some users share forum account info with their login data for some games. In an age where many games are centered around digital purchases and microtransactions, it’s just an e-mail address and password click-away from a hacker logging in and potentially causing massive financial harm to a user. Heck, that very thing just recently happened with a malware attack on Steam accounts that gathered e-mail addresses and names and proceeded to empty the contents of a user’s Steam wallet into the hacker’s account, as recently noted by F-Secure.
Now I know I’m limited in some places when I report about these things and trying to get users to drop the hammer on foul practices; but over here the hammer drops… oh, the hammer drops.
If you were one of the 40,000 potentially affected by the Firemonkeys forum breach, or you know someone who was, you can contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center and file a report to request a full investigation into the matter.
It may seem like a trivial pursuit, but keep in mind that these companies and journalists have managed to get away with a lot of these dirty deeds simply because most people brushed them off as not being very important or … “it’s just games”. Keep in mind that the gaming industry is an estimated $93 billion dollar market, as noted by Gartner, and there’s a lot on the line than just “muh vidya gaems”. As reported by Computer World, just recently Google had to pay out $19 million in refunds for kids buying up in-app goods with their parent’s credit cards. If Google is willing to stand accountable for these kind of issues happening within the burgeoning gaming industry, then so should the companies that profit off the titles they sell, and the media that reports on them.
Even seemingly harmless aspects of the industry can still cost people money; can still put people at risk; and can still foster the kind of corruption #GamerGate is trying to police.
Don’t give them an inch. Don’t let them breathe. Keep the pressure. The good people of the #GamerGate movement are making effectual changes take place in an industry we all love. Keep it up.