How the Hell Did a Hacker Pull Off a 'GTA'-Like Heist of 'GTA VI'?

·5 min read

Do you have any sensitive information in your company's Slack channels? Well, you may want to invest in some non-cloud-based storage. On Monday, an 18-year-old hacker by the name of "teapotuberhacker" allegedly breached Rockstar Games' Slack messages, stealing over 90 videos of an upcoming game that had yet to be announced. That project? Grand Theft Auto VI—only one of the most anticipated titles of the last 10 years. Posting the videos to GTAForums, fans got a massive look at the yet-unshared footage, revealing plot details, location, game mechanics, characters, and just about everything a video game developer would want to keep under wraps until it was ready to be shown.

For context on just how massive this hack is, GTA Vwhich hasn't received a proper sequel in nearly a decadesurpassed $1 billion (!) in sales in just three days after its release back in 2013. It became the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, which is a record it still holds. GTA V was once the best-selling video game of all time, until Minecraft surpassed it to become No. 1 in 2019. That's all to say, that when GTA VI was going to be announced for real, it was going to be a historic moment. To put it in perspective with another media giant, it would be like if no one even knew that James Cameron was working on a sequel to Avatar and footage from Avatar: The Way of the Water leaked onto the Internet.

"We are extremely disappointed to have the details of our next game shared with you all in this way," Rockstar Games said in an official statement on Monday. "Our work on the next Grand Theft Auto game will continue as planned and we remain as committed as ever to delivering an experience for you, our players, that truly exceeds your expectations. We will update everyone again soon, and, of course, will properly introduce you to this game when it is ready."

So how did the hacker do it? Well, we might have a hint. The hacker claimed responsibility for a similar security breach to the ride-sharing company Uber just a week prior. Allegedly, they got into the ride-sharing company's Slack by tricking an employee into granting them access. They reportedly spammed them with multi-factor authentication (MFA) push notifications until they let them into their internal systems, where they were able to browse the source code. "Hi @here. I announce i am a hacker and uber has suffered a data breach," the alleged hacker wrote on their company's Slack. Many Uber employees, who must have thought it was a joke, oddly responded with various emojis unbefitting of someone who just found out that private information of theirs had just been stolen on the Internet. Regardless, the same phishing method could be at play with the Rockstar breach.

Along with leaking videos, the hacker is also reportedly blackmailing Rockstar Games over GTA V and GTA VI's source code, which contains all of the information needed to run the game. With the source code, anyone could produce a pirated and even modified version of certain aspects of the game. Depending on how much was stolen, such a leak could even hurt future sales of GTA VI and accidentally reveal trade secrets from the game developers.

Leaks of unreleased footage from games still in development have not been new to the video game industry, but blackmail over source code is a very serious matter. Just this past August, entire scenes from The Last of Us Part 1 remake somehow made their way onto YouTube, where fans picked apart various aspects of the game before it could properly be announced. Neil Druckman, co-president of Naughty Dog (the company that made The Last of Us) expressed his support for Rockstar on Twitter, writing: "To my fellow devs out there affected by the latest leak, know that while it feels overwhelming right now, it’ll pass. One day we’ll be playing your game, appreciating your craft, and the leaks will be relegated to a footnote on a Wikipedia page. Keep pushing. Keep making art."

Cyberpunk 2077 quest director Paweł Sasko also spoke out, expressing his regret that, "years of work are now being shredded, torn apart, analyzed, misunderstood, taken out of context, and memed." He called it, "a destructive cycle games industry knows way too well" and urged people to "help to make it better and don't engage with leaks." Cyberpunk 2077, which was hit with dozens of leaks and innumerable performance issues upon release, was even removed from the PlayStation Online Store for six months while the game underwent sizable improvements.

What's next? While we wait for a proper introduction to GTA VI, Rockstar will probably be working behind the scenes to try and ride out this PR nightmare. If a deal ever goes down to retrieve the source code from the hacker, it's very unlikely that the public would ever hear about it. That being said, it's not impossible that the hacker's targets end with Uber and Rockstar Games before an investigation can pinpoint their identity. Until then, people, watch your Slack notifications!

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