In a translated account published in Tech in Asia, the operations and financial earnings of a hacking group in China that targets online games was broken down.
The group targets online games in China due to its low levels of security. Due to the costs to harden its servers, game developers in China choose not to invest in this area. The companies are believed to have made a decision that the security of its servers and database is not an area where a gamer will make his decision on whether to play the game or not. In addition, many of the Internet users in China has not developed the habit of using security tools. For example, even if two-step authentication is available, many game players choose not to use them.
Hackers in China have noticed these security vulnerabilities and have thus started targeting these websites. Due to the high number of users and popularity of games, the hackers have been able to create a profitable enterprise by hacking the game servers.
The group is organized on three levels, according to the report. The first level consists of the elite hackers. These are the most technically skilled hackers who are responsible for penetrating into the databases in order to obtain usernames and passwords. The second level consists of hackers who are responsible for collecting valuable information from the databases by scanning the sites. The third tier is responsible for selling the goods that were found. This can include game-play items such as armor, weapons and in-game currency.
On average, hackers involved in this group can make as much as $16,000 (100,000 RMB) a month.
In another incident, a hacker reportedly got access to an online game’s entire database. The hacker then sold it to a third party for $820,000 (5 Million RMB). The third party uses this access in order to place itself between the gamer and the game server when gamers are attempting to add money to its account. By placing itself in the middle, all funds that gamers submit would be intercepted by the third party. Although the breach would be quickly noticed, a popular game with many payments could easily recoup the initial investment.
Source: C. Custer, “Hacking China’s online games for profit: an interview with a Chinese hacker,” Tech in Asia, May 2, 2014.