Electronic Arts (EA) has endured a difficult weekend after a poorly-coded promotion saw a discount code that could be used many times find its way into the public domain, where it sparked a free games downloading spree.
The incident seems to have started with this post to a gaming forum, which includes a discount code good for US$20 of software from EA's online store. The code was a reward for participants who completed an online survey. The code was not a one-off. Instead, it could be used multiple times by multiple people.
The code then made it to Reddit, whereupon it spread at a rapid pace.
Redditors now report that it was possible to access at least 44 games. As some cost $19.99, the discount code allowed them to be downloaded for free.
Reports suggest the code was used for around 18 hours before it became invalid. Judging by the hundreds of comments on Reddit, a great many games were downloaded during that time.
In his summary of the incident, Blogger Max Woolf has pointed out that the mess is probably the result of very, very poor client-side validation, as the code could be used multiple times from the same device without the server becoming aware it had been used.
Woolf also posted this screen shot detailing a chat he had with an online support person at EA, in which the EA staffer confirms many of the details of incident.
EA seems not to have commented on the issue, either through its announcements pages or its forums.
Even though the downloads have now stopped, the gaming giant is not out of the woods as the promotion promised the code would be valid until October 21st. Just how the company sorts out this mess is anyone's guess. ®