Hacking Games as a Style of Living – Confessions from a Hacker
There are many ways to increase your financial gain nowadays. With the rise of Twitch, eSports and YouTube gamers from all around the world have found a way to actually earn money by broadcasting their game sessions, creating podcasts or simply by showing their face on their channel and mentioning a couple of popular games.
But what does all this have to do with hacking and earning money through it?
Reverse engineering, or hacking in simple words, is becoming a frequently used term being that we’ve become inseparable from using the Internet. Many companies actually hire hackers to find exploitable security errors in their system. This way they can improve their products, make them safe from intrusion and increase their value due to the upgrade of their system and increased web security.
A notorious hacker, using a pseudonym Manfred, has been earning money by exploiting security flaws in MMO’s and online games for about 20 years now. But how does he do it?
Transforming Virtual Currency into Real Money
Learning how to code and understand programming language is not something that can be done overnight. It takes time to master some of these programming tools and understand how coding actually works. This is why Manfred’s character has been doing this for about 20 years. This period of constant learning and upgrading his knowledge has benefitted him in so many ways. After all, he is paying bills by hacking popular online games.
As we have learned from our source that interviewed Manfred, he has earned more than 397 trillion dollars when converted into real money. The only thing that limits his income is the game market of the in-game currency. So how did he do it, exactly?
Games such as EVE online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and many other rely on their player base to sell, purchase or otherwise utilize their virtual currency. This currency holds value in real life as well, as it can be sold or purchased on many online gray markets or through the official game’s market itself. For Manfred, this way of living started long before anyone found out about his methods and revealed them to the public. By typing commands into the game’s debugger, he found a way to earn 18 quintillions in virtual currency in a matter of seconds.
Although his method for doing this changes from game to game, the principle is the same. The first step is to trick the game into giving his virtually unlimited amount of in-game resources. He would then use these recourses to shake the game’s economy by selling huge amounts of virtual money and transfer them into money later on. This was his gateway to increasing his fame and improving his financial situation as well as social status as it appears.
The motive for This Inspiring but Unlawful Actions
It all started with Ultima Online, a massively multiplayer online role playing game. The game was released in 1997 and was quite popular at the time. For modern online gamers, this is the old era when it comes to internet speed. In the old days, we all used a dial-up connection. As was Manfred, who was quite fond of this game at the time. The motive behind his actions might be traced back to that period. After being constantly defeated due to low internet speed, he realized that he’s not going to play fair anymore.
He quickly found a way to cheat the game and hack his way to victory. This game is all about managing resources, and he knew this all too well. The method that allowed him to be victorious in any online conflict in this game was to delete player’s houses and gain resources by selling the material. A tradition that he kept and still uses in modern games. One day, probably after a while of practicing and stealing houses in Ultima Online, we stole an entire castle and placed an ad for it on e-bay. He eventually sold it for 2,000 dollars. What an investment, right?
Since his first successful sale of a virtual retail, he started selling more and more. He sold more than one hundred virtual houses and got around two thousand dollars for each of them. That’s 200 000 dollars for selling houses and castles from virtual games.
What’s interesting beyond the fact that these castles and house only exist in the world of virtual reality is that he didn’t even own them. Naturally, this didn’t stop him from making money from it. This only motivated him to improve his hacking strategy and adapt to modern games.
The bottom line is that he doesn’t really feel remorse for what he’s done and what he’s still doing. Manfred considers that he isn’t doing anything wrong, and doesn’t like when someone refers to his work as hacking. Instead, he prefers that the public thinks of his actions as finding unintended features in the protocol. You must admit, it does sound much better than hacking.
He also comments that everyone is doing what he’s doing and that this is going on for a while. Referring to the period in which we’re living as the wild west, Manfred states that there are many other unlawful action that people are conducting on a higher level. More importantly, once their actions become known to the public, they aren’t even charged as in this game there’s always someone watching their back.
Sudden Change of Heart
After a prosperous period of earning by exploiting security errors in online games, Manfred decided to explain exactly how he does it on a hacking convention. Fortunately for him, he came to his senses and canceled his live hacking presentation. He stated several times, that developer companies should take more interest in upgrading their security flaws. It’s not like he didn’t warn them.
The latest announcement from this notorious hacker was that he’s quitting his hacking career and that he decided to earn money legitimately. He plans to do this by testing and discovering security flaws in the same games from which he used to earn money. That’s quite bold, right?
As his last hacking attempt would be in WildStart online, instead of exploiting their flaws, Manfred decided to report the problem to NCSOFT (creators of WildStar Online) and start his career as internet security technician.
Being that security breaches are occurring while you’re read this, it common sense that people are finding more ways to exploit security errors, and that game developing companies aren’t doing anything about it. The fact that the common gamer isn’t affected by these actions gives these hackers a role of a Good Samaritan. Popularizing the concept of taking from the rich to giving it to the poor isn’t such a bad idea.
After all, these hackers are gamers themselves, and they do take from large corporations to provide for less fortunate people that are, indirectly, involved in the development of gaming industry. They are selling these resources at lower prices than on official game market, and this is what makes their offers impossible to refuse. More importantly, lower prices on same resources makes these hackers offer beat those of their competition- the official game market for that particular game. (Source)