Online Gaming Code Hacking
Online gaming is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that includes thousands of different platforms. Some are free games, some are paid and some are free games that offer premium add-ons for sale. Obviously, the creators of any game hope to profit the most from their games but there is also a growing cottage industry of players who have found a way to make a profit themselves from online games. From internet celebrities who build a following large enough to receive paid endorsements to gold farming operations, gaming has become big business for more than just the creators of the game. Another popular way of monetizing gaming that is as old as gaming itself is code hacking. Here is an overview of online gaming code hacking. What it is, how it started, how it has evolved and how to stop it.
What is Online Game Code Hacking?
Online gaming code hacking is a practice that has been around for decades, so the nature of code hacking has changed as well. In fact, the term "hack" comes from the gaming world and as such, it has a double meaning. In a more general sense, hacking is simply the act of breaking into a computer system. In the gaming world, however, it started out as the act of scouring code to find a "gaming hack" or shortcut that can be exploited.
In the early days of coding, developers often embedded certain hacks (shortcuts) into the game that would give them more lives or ammunition without having to restart the game. This saved a great deal of time while they were developing or testing them. When the product eventually shipped, these "cheat codes" were often still embedded in the game. Tech-savvy gamers would scour the code looking for these hacks and then frequently share them online.
These early hacks generally included performing a series of taps or button presses in a certain order. For instance, one of the more famous hacks was called the Konami Code, which first appeared in the 1986 release of the NES (Nintendo Entertainment Systems) game Gradius. It became so popular that it was subsequently embedded in a number of other games, and was even used outside of the gaming world to unlock various easter eggs on a variety of sites. These hacks are fairly harmless and did not represent any type of financial loss to the gaming company, which is why they were often intentionally left in the shipped product. In some cases, they were even purposefully added to the product just prior to shipping.
How Online Gaming Hacking Evolved
Eventually, coders began scouring code to create their own personalized modifications to the game and sometimes even shared these hacks with others. At this point, however, code hacking took a slightly more nefarious turn as competing developers would also start mining code to create similar games or use similar tricks or techniques. All in all, however, creating an entire video game is still a serious undertaking, so this fell more under the type of industrial espionage that almost all businesses and companies face but had little effect on player experience.
Ultimately, however, the ability to network game consoles gave rise to MMO's or Massively Multiplayer Online games. In MMO's players began to interact with each other and could even trade or share certain items. This is where players began to monetize the system for their own personal gain. Because of the massive scale of MMO's, they often contain glitches or vulnerabilities in the code that players can exploit. Many MMO's operate by many of the same rules as the real world, allowing players to buy property or own things that they then have to protect from other players. One vulnerability in a highly popular MMO allowed players to delete another player's house and take over the empty lot. They could then build whatever they wanted on it and then sell the property online for an actual profit. Some listings could bring in profits of $1,000 USD or more.
All in all, however, this still did not represent a significant financial loss to either the players that lost their online properties or to the developers of the games. Eventually, however, the developers themselves started taking a page from these early hackers and learned that they too could profit not just from initial sales of the game, but also by selling certain items or upgrades within the game. Once developers began monetizing these in-game items, gaming code hacking began to represent an actual financial loss to developers.
With millions of gamers playing at any given time, gamers themselves also began to invest heavily in their accounts. Some accounts may even represent an investment of several thousands of dollars. This is also where a new form of game code hacking came in. In today's gaming world ATO or Account Takeovers are becoming more and more common. This is where hackers use phishing scams or other types of fraudulent activities to try and gain access to a player's account. Once they have gained access, they can strip the player's account of all of their hard-earned items and then sell them online for a profit.
How To Prevent Online Game Hacking
These days, the most destructive online gaming code hacking is happening on the player side, not the developer side. Developers, on the whole, have instituted stronger and stronger security measures to keep hackers away from their code at least until it is released. Once the game has been released, however, it is open season on reverse engineering and there aren't a lot developers can do about it. Players, however, have the same responsibility to protect their accounts as they do any type of financial accounts or personal data. These include protections like instituting strong, random passwords using a password manager and changing their password frequently. Overall, developers are providing users with access to the same level of security features as many banks or other financial institutions use. It is up to the player, however, to actually use them appropriately.
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