Popular computer game code stolen by hackers

The entire source code for a much-anticipated computer game, Half-Life 2, has been leaked to the Internet, according to a security expert.

Copies of the source code began trading wildly on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels last night and apparently followed a sophisticated attack on the network of Valve Corp. of Bellevue, Washington, which makes Half-Life, according to Thor Larholm a senior security researcher at PivX Solutions LLC.

A message posted last Thursday on a Half-Life enthusiast bulletin board and purporting to be from Gabe Newell, founder of Valve Corp., said that the source code was stolen on Sept.19 by hackers who systematically compromised the company's computer systems.

"Ever have one of those weeks? This has just not been the best couple of days for me or for Valve," the message begins.

The message goes on to describe a sophisticated attack in which hackers infiltrated the Valve computer network by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client on Newell's computer, installed key stroke capture software to capture passwords and other security credentials, then stole a copy of the Half-Life 2 source code.

Neither Newell nor other Valve representatives responded to repeated requests for comment. However, the message claiming to be from Newell called on the large community of avid Half-Life fans to track down those responsible for stealing the code.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Seattle declined to comment on whether Valve had informed the agency of the theft.

Half-Life is a popular computer game in which players take on the role of Gordon Freeman, a scientist at the fictional Black Mesa Federal Research Facility. After an experiment goes awry, a doorway into another dimension is accidentally opened and Freeman is called on to rescue the facility from a horde of unearthly beasts.

Originally released in November 1998, Half-Life won awards from computer game aficionados and the gaming press and spawned a popular online version, Counter-Strike, that allows multiple players to compete against each other on the Internet.

The sequel to the original game, Half-Life 2 was scheduled for release on September 30, but was then delayed under mysterious circumstances.

IRC channels devoted to Half-Life 2 were crowded last Friday with people discussing the leak. Some users offered links to what they claimed was the stolen code. Links to images of the source code being compiled were also available on IRC. "It's out there and being spread actively on IRC," Larholm confirmed.

The leaked code covers the entire game, including early versions of Counter-Strike, he said. "You can compile it and play Half-Life 2 straight up," he said. The leaked code also includes model and world editors, which are used to create new levels in Half-Life, Larholm said.

Proprietary software libraries from Valve were also leaked. Among other things, those libraries contain code for generating graphics, conducting network play and interacting with DirectX , a Microsoft technology that optimizes graphics and sound on Windows systems, he said.

Half-Life 2 was a much-anticipated sequel to the original Half-Life. The source code represents over five years of development effort by Valve, Larholm said. While the theft of the code may not impact the release date, Valve will have to do an exhaustive code audit before release, he said.

With the source code now in the public domain, malicious hackers have a free peek at the exact workings of the game, which makes writing exploits for code vulnerabilities a simple matter. Typically, hackers would have to use a "black box" approach, trying different attacks against the compiled code and seeing what results they produced, Larholm said.

The release will also be a boon to Half-Life 2 players who develop so-called "cheats," software programs that give their character special powers and advantages in the game. Cheats are usually developed using a black box approach as well, Larholm said. With the game source code freely available, however, it is possible that powerful cheats will be created before Half-Life 2 even hits the shelf in stores, he said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Roberts

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?