Gaming mega-publisher EA has been struck by a massive data hack. The hackers responsible have absconded with the source code for the hugely popular FIFA 21, as well as the source code for EA’s Frostbite Engine – the game-running shell and development tools behind FIFA as well as EA’s next big release Battlefield 2042.
The source codes are reportedly currently being auctioned off in hacker forums on the dark web. The criminals behind the attack are only accepting offers from big-name members of the hacking community.
Stolen Source Codes
Source codes are the raw coding behind any application or programme. With a stolen source code and the right know-how, a user can duplicate a programme – for example, a video game – and do whatever they may wish to it. Usually, they’ll sell it or give it away for free to friends or community members through cracked copies.
Source codes also contain important industry secrets and are usually kept under serious protection. Each game developer will have their own source codes for games or engines that can set them apart from competitors.
EA’s Frostbite Engine, for example, is considered a top-of-the-range gaming engine, capable of industry-leading graphics and gameplay.
If the source code for Frostbite is sold to a studio in Russia or China, for example, the studio can reverse-engineer the coding and have access to EA’s graphics and gameplay capabilities without having to funnel millions of dollars into research or development. This is, of course, incredibly illegal, and any studio caught with the source code, or snippets thereof, would probably face the full wrath of EA’s legal team.
Source codes are bread and butter for video game developers and the sum of all their hard work. Last year, ZeniMax game studios were sued for allegedly intentionally keeping a game’s source code away from its developers. The suit was for $100-million in damages.
Hackers Selling Source Code on Dark Web
The Verge reports that, while it is unlikely that any reputable studio would use stolen source codes, hackers can survey source codes for other industry secrets like developer comments, future projects or new gaming ideas. Breaches negatively affect a company’s reputation as well, with customers fearing that their personal information can be vulnerable.
In addition to EA’s own proprietary code and tools, the hackers claim they have Microsoft Xbox and Sony’s SDKs and API keys available for sale as well.
BleepingComputer obtained screenshots of the alleged hackers claiming to be selling over 780 GB worth of stolen data, most of it from EA. They were found using the Dark Web trawler solution, Dark Beast.
“We are investigating a recent incident of intrusion into our network where a limited amount of game source code and related tools were stolen,” an EA spokesperson is quoted by BleepingComputer.
“No player data was accessed, and we have no reason to believe there is any risk to player privacy. Following the incident, we’ve already made security improvements and do not expect any impact on our games or our business.”
“We are actively working with law enforcement officials and other experts as part of this ongoing criminal investigation.”