It’s never a good idea to cheat — especially if you end up infecting your device with malware in the process. That’s exactly what happened to a number of Call of Duty players in March 2021. It’s a cautionary tale for anyone considering cheating on a multiplayer game, and a reminder that some downloads aren’t what they appear to be.
The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars, and its profits are increasingly driven by multiplayer platforms. A large motivator in getting consumers to continue playing is the addition of online tournaments and leaderboards.
Whether they’re playing solo or as part of a team, gamers are incentivized to stay engaged with in-game rewards, prizes, and competitive scoring. While some players spend their time and even their money to succeed in multiplayer arenas, others use illegitimate techniques to get ahead.
First person shooters and battle royale games usually suffer most from cheats and hacking. Cheating tactics range from something as simple as an aim-bot (a program that auto-locks your aiming reticule to your enemy’s heads) to a more advanced wall-hacking bot (allowing you to see through walls and other physical structures). Obviously, these cheats are banned in all online matches, and can ruin the game for other players.
Activision’s Call of Duty franchise is just the latest victim of repeated and extensive cheats and hacks. Their most recent title, Call of Duty: Warzone, is the series’ first foray into the Fortnite-inspired Battle Royale craze. The game is free-to-play too, meaning there is no purchase barrier for any potential cheaters.
While multiplayer cheaters often describe themselves as “hacking” the games they play, some real hackers soon decided to get involved. They set up a multi-layered trap to trick would-be cheaters into downloading malware.
The ‘cheat’ itself was advertised as a fairly standard software, offering speed shooting, aiming enhancers, and easy wins. The fake cheats were then ‘legitimized’ with YouTube tutorials and forum posts, instructing would-be hackers on how to install the programs.
Unfortunately for anyone who followed these tutorials, the software they downloaded was a ‘dropper’. Droppers are pieces of malware that facilitate further malware infection; an entry point for the really malicious software.
The cheaters had to willingly lower all their defenses to install this malware, too. Victims were prompted to turn off their antivirus and lower their firewalls, as antivirus software often fails to differentiate between viruses and cheating software.
In short, the hackers tricked cheaters into turning off their online protection and installing malware onto their own computers. Cheaters never prosper.
It's hard to feel too much sympathy for the victims of this particular hack. As a rule, you should never even consider lowering your antivirus and firewall (and you probably shouldn't cheat either).
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