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Modern Warfare 2 Viral Hack Causing Innocent to Cheat

By 18 December 2009 No Comment

In a lot of the contracts and licensing agreements we agree to when buying products or services some of the rules we are bound to often get lost is a sea of text.

It took me all of 30 seconds to discover that hacking is not allowed on the Xbox 360.  In Section 5 of the Xbox Live Terms of Use, sub-point 12 states: “In using the Service, you may not use or distribute unauthroized cheats, macros, or scripts; or [sub-point 13] exploit a bug, or make an unauthorized modification, to any software or data to gain unfair advantage in a game, contest, or promotion.”

This makes it pretty clear that hacking Xbox Live is not allowed.  But I wanted to check with Infinity Ward, publishers of the hotly acclaimed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  Investigating the Software License Agreement found on page 8 of the user guide that accompanies the game also took around 30 seconds to discover yet again, even the publisher frowns on hacking.  In Section 3, sub-point 3 we find that, “You shall not: Reverse engineer, derive source code, modify, decompile, disassemble, or create derivative works of the Program, in whole or in part.” And continues in sub-point 5, “You shall not: Hack or modify (or attempt to modify or hack) the Program, or create, develop, modify, distribute or use any software programs, in order to gain (or allow others to gain) advantage of this Program in any on-line multiplayer game settings including but not limited to local area network or any other network play or on the Internet.”

So just to hammer this home.  By purchasing the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, you are bound by the Software License Agreement, and within that agreement you are not even allowed to modify game code by hacking on your own personal LAN, much less affecting a game on the Internet that other third party users are connected to.

Hacking consoles is a growing problem.  CNN Tech reported last month that Microsoft banned 1 million players from Xbox Live for hacking their systems which allowed individuals to play pirated games online, including pirated copies of MW2 prior to its release.

But the problems are now spreading to users who are not breaking their license agreements.  In the most recent case hackers have created a cheat to allow them infinity ammo, and the hack forces the migration of public ranked matches into private rooms where cheaters rack up gobs of kills toward their leader board scores.  But the catch here is in the cache.  Not only are the cheaters affecting game play, they are affecting legitimate game players.  The hack is somehow stored in the system cache of each player that had been in the same game room with the cheater.  It then acts as a sort of virus.  The affected cache on non-cheaters systems then corrupts the next room they enter to play spreading the hack.  This is in essence the same thing many individuals deal with when computer viruses take over their systems and innocent user email accounts to spam thousands of other people while the innocent user is sound asleep in bed unbeknownst of the problem.

Infinity Ward’s Community Manager, Robert Bowling has commented on the problem issuing a statement that, “It’s being addressed…it’ll be eliminated soon enough.”  But the issue is troubling.  Companies like Microsoft can take steps like banning to prevent individuals with hacked Xbox’s from trolling the consoles online system.  But the evidence of hackers being able to infect innocent users systems sets a new precedent in what was thought to be a well protected walled garden online gaming environment.

Not being a computer scientist or a network engineer, I’m not entirely sure how the problem can be solved.  But one thing is clear, once again, legitimate users will be the ones to suffer due to the violations of a handful of cheaters.  And the cheaters will eventually just find new and clever ways around solutions.

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