Hackers target online consoles

Hackers and their malicious code-cracking antics have run riot on PCs for years, but experts predict videogame consoles and online games will come under increasing fire this year.

Computer security experts say that hackers may divert their efforts to attacking gamers, targeting payment systems and hijacking accounts.

"I haven't seen any malicious code that is specifically designed to run on a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox but I would expect it is not very far away," said, security analyst for Australia's Computer Emergency Response Team, MacLeonard Starkey, noting the increased integration of online connectivity in today's games consoles.

These predictions come after Xbox Live users complained of hijacked accounts, after Microsoft admitted call centers had been duped into revealing critical details to unauthorized callers.

Security software maker CA 1's Stefana Muller spoke of the hacker's motivation for cracking their new targets: "I think it's going to be an 'I did it' kind of target, 'I got to exploit this gaming console.' It's obvious that once a new thing comes out, if it's cool, it will be exploited."

Money is also a motive for hackers who steal valuable items to sell to other players, as Starkey explains: "They can log in and steal the items that players have collected over, in some cases, four or five years. There's actually some pretty good money in that."

Starkey's advice is to keep your PC secure. "The malicious code is often coming through from vectors other than the games themselves, usually via a site that you're directed to go to, sometimes from a MySpace profile or an email, and the code then targets a particular online game," he explains.

Be careful, you don't want a bricked PS3 or hefty Xbox Live bill, do you?

April 5, 2007