Everything you ever wanted to know about Xbox hacking

Cracking gameplay laid bare


Analysis Hacking and phishing threats that PC users have suffered for years are now becoming part and parcel of the online gaming experience for users of Microsoft's Xbox console.

Chris Boyd (AKA PaperGhost) - who recently joined Sunbelt Software as a security researcher and is a long-time dedicated gamer - has studied the growth of tricks designed to allow hackers to take over privileged Xbox accounts via social engineering or launch denial of service attacks against rivals.

He warns the development of serious malware and social engineering threats in the world of online gaming has made the environment as risky as other parts of the net. These threats are not being taken seriously enough by either gamers or the industry itself, Boyd warns.

Industry efforts are focused around combating piracy rather than hacking, the stealthier but arguably larger risk, while the majority of gamers remain ignorant of the hacking perils circulating in the games universe.

Microsoft made a big splash in November after it banned modders from Xbox Live, its online gaming service. However, little or nothing is heard of the many malicious packages designed to exploit the Xbox or its gamers.

Three-ring circus

Boyd explained that there are three main areas of exploitation on Xbox Live: phishing and social engineering, hardware hacking and denial of service attacks.

Although gaming logins are still ultimately lost via phishing, this often only happens after prospective marks are groomed for abuse by fraudsters who use the online gaming environment to con victims into trusting them in the first place.

In addition, miscreants often run sophisticated social engineering scams. "Increasingly, manipulation of files on the Xbox hard drive is taking place to make the scams more sophisticated," Boyd explained, adding that the ability to search for users with high gamescores (and therefore the most unlocked bonuses, features, and perks) on Xbox forums is used by gaming grifters to target potential marks, as explained here.

Live and let frag

The first, and most prominent, area of Xbox exploitation is using a combination of phishing and social engineering to obtain user accounts ( Gamertags). These gametags are tied to Windows Live IDs, which are often sold or traded on forums or via auction sites.

Live IDs with high point scores attached to them can retail for 10 times as much as ordinary accounts. "Considering many of the account dumps we see have a few hundred (or thousand) Live IDs in them, hackers can make a lot of money very quickly," Boys explained.

Malware - usually in the form of fake point generators - often comes into play. "Fake points generators that run on your PC promise free Microsoft points in return for your login details," Boyd explained. "Of course, what happens is your data is sent back to base via email should you enter it into the program. Typically, the phishers will also hijack YouTube accounts and place fake 'it works' messages on the videos promoting them [phishing tricks]," he added.

An example of a YouTube video designed to drive traffic to a Xbox phishing site can be found in a blog post by F-Secure here. High points accounts come with privileges and can be cashed-in through sales on the digital underground or even more openly via auction sites.

Next page: Tamper tantrums

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Research finds consumer-grade IoT devices showing up... on corporate networks

    Considering the slack security of such kit, it's a perfect storm

    Increasing numbers of "non-business" Internet of Things devices are showing up inside corporate networks, Palo Alto Networks has warned, saying that smart lightbulbs and internet-connected pet feeders may not feature in organisations' threat models.

    According to Greg Day, VP and CSO EMEA of the US-based enterprise networking firm: "When you consider that the security controls in consumer IoT devices are minimal, so as not to increase the price, the lack of visibility coupled with increased remote working could lead to serious cybersecurity incidents."

    The company surveyed 1,900 IT decision-makers across 18 countries including the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, finding that just over three quarters (78 per cent) of them reported an increase in non-business IoT devices connected to their org's networks.

    Continue reading
  • Huawei appears to have quenched its thirst for power in favour of more efficient 5G

    Never mind the performance, man, think of the planet

    MBB Forum 2021 The "G" in 5G stands for Green, if the hours of keynotes at the Mobile Broadband Forum in Dubai are to be believed.

    Run by Huawei, the forum was a mixture of in-person event and talking heads over occasionally grainy video and kicked off with an admission by Ken Hu, rotating chairman of the Shenzhen-based electronics giant, that the adoption of 5G – with its promise of faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower latency – was still quite low for some applications.

    Despite the dream five years ago, that the tech would link up everything, "we have not connected all things," Hu said.

    Continue reading
  • What is self-learning AI and how does it tackle ransomware?

    Darktrace: Why you need defence that operates at machine speed

    Sponsored There used to be two certainties in life - death and taxes - but thanks to online crooks around the world, there's a third: ransomware. This attack mechanism continues to gain traction because of its phenomenal success. Despite admonishments from governments, victims continue to pay up using low-friction cryptocurrency channels, emboldening criminal groups even further.

    Darktrace, the AI-powered security company that went public this spring, aims to stop the spread of ransomware by preventing its customers from becoming victims at all. To do that, they need a defence mechanism that operates at machine speed, explains its director of threat hunting Max Heinemeyer.

    According to Darktrace's 2021 Ransomware Threat Report [PDF], ransomware attacks are on the rise. It warns that businesses will experience these attacks every 11 seconds in 2021, up from 40 seconds in 2016.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021