Fortnite's free-to-play Battle Royale mode took the world by storm, hitting a 30 million player count in a matter of months. For a game that has become so popular in the past year or so, it isn't surprising that a fair amount of cheaters have infested it as well.
However, what is perhaps unexpected is that, as per a new report from BBC, teens are making thousands of pounds each week selling hacked Fortnite accounts. Apparently, two-factor authentication for any user-created accounts offers viable protection against these hackers but surprisingly hasn't been employed by many users.
Of the 20 hackers interviewed by the news channel, there are children as young as 14 stealing hundreds of game accounts each day and selling them online. Although there are no pay-to-win elements in Fornite, the attraction the hacked accounts offer is cosmetic items, such as player and weapon skins. The selling price has been proven by the hackers to be ranging from £0.25 ($0.32) to potentially hundreds of pounds, with accounts that contain 'rare' skins obviously selling for much more than what seems to be the lower threshold.
A British hacker stated that he got involved in the world of "Fortnite cracking" at the age of 14, after his own account was hacked. Recovering his account proved futile since the person who hacked his account had enabled two-factor authentication once the account was taken over, which meant that the password could only be changed through a code sent to an email address - that now belonged to the offender. After buying a stolen account that apparently contained much better items than his previous one for only £0.25 ($0.32), the teen was soon approached by a "cracking team".
The team showed him where lists of usernames and passwords exposed in data breaches over the past few years could be obtained. He was then taught how to use these stolen credentials, which, combined with hacker tools, soon meant that he could gain illegal access to over a thousands accounts a day. Sadly enough, the parents of said teen and many others are reportedly aware of the criminal nature of their children's actions, but they refuse to put a stop to them.
Notably, over £1bn (~$1.27bn) has reportedly been earned by Fortnite's developers, Epic Games, through skin sales since the game's release. The game's growing userbase only offers more money-making opportunities for the hackers, albeit illegally. Such crimes carry a possible prison sentence of two years under the Computer Misuse Act.
Ethan Thomas, gaming lead of the National Crime Agency (NCA), believes video game publishers should help law enforcement more in the prevention of youngsters being tempted into crime. This, according to Thomas, can be achieved through the use of "early intervention messaging on their platforms to divert [youngsters] on to a more ethical and legal path".
Although Epic Games was first made aware of the hacking issues surrounding Fortnite in March, two-factor authentication for the game has still not been made compulsory by the company. This decision is all the more interesting, considering that the interviewed hackers state that user accounts protected through two-factor authentication are "extremely hard" to illegally access and take over.