How Hackers Used Slack To Break Into EA Games

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Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard’s podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

The group of hackers who stole a wealth of data from game publishing giant Electronic Arts broke into the company in part by tricking an employee over Slack to provide a login token, Motherboard has learned.

The group stole the source code for FIFA 21 and related matchmaking tools, as well as the source code for the Frostbite engine that powers games like Battlefield and other internal game development tools. In all, the hackers claim they have 780GB of data, and are advertising it for sale on various underground forums. EA previously confirmed the data impacted in the breach to Motherboard.

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A representative for the hackers told Motherboard in an online chat that the process started by purchasing stolen cookies being sold online for $10 and using those to gain access to a Slack channel used by EA. Cookies can save the login details of particular users, and potentially let hackers log into services as that person. In this case, the hackers were able to get into EA’s Slack using the stolen cookie. (Although not necessarily connected, in February 2020 Motherboard reported that a group of researchers discovered an ex-engineer had left a list of the names of EA Slack channels in a public facing code repository).

“Once inside the chat, we messaged a IT Support members we explain to them we lost our phone at a party last night,” the representative said.

Do you work at EA? Do you know anything else about this breach? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

The hackers then requested a multifactor authentication token from EA IT support to gain access to EA’s corporate network. The representative said this was successful two times.

Once inside EA’s network, the hackers found a service for EA developers for compiling games. They successfully logged in and created a virtual machine giving them more visibility into the network, and then accessed one more service and downloaded game source code.

The representative for the hackers provided screenshots to help corroborate the various steps of the hack, including the Slack chats themselves. EA then confirmed to Motherboard the contours of the description of the breach given by the hackers.

In its earlier statement, EA said, “We are investigating a recent incident of intrusion into our network where a limited amount of game source code and related tools were stolen. No player data was accessed, and we have no reason to believe there is any risk to player privacy. Following the incident, we’ve already made security improvements and do not expect an impact on our games or our business. We are actively working with law enforcement officials and other experts as part of this ongoing criminal investigation.”

The representative of the hackers also provided Motherboard with a series of documents they say were stolen as part of the hack. They include an assortment of material on PlayStation VR, how EA creates digital crowds in the FIFA games, and documents about AI in games. Sony, which owns the PlayStation brand, did not respond to a request for comment.

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