Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Catching up with the guy who stole Half-Life 2’s source code, 10 years later #valve


At 6am on May 7, 2004, Axel Gembe awoke in the small German town of Schönau im Schwarzwald to find his bed surrounded by police officers bearing automatic weapons.
One officer barked: "Get out of bed. Do not touch the keyboard." Gembe knew why they were there. But, bleary-eyed, he asked anyway.
"You are being charged with hacking into Valve Corporation's network, stealing the video game Half-Life 2 , leaking it onto the Internet, and causing damages in excess of $250 million," came the reply. "Get dressed."
Seven months earlier, on October 2, 2003, Valve Corporation director Gabe Newell awoke in Seattle to find that the source code for the game his company had been working on for almost five years had leaked onto the Internet. The game had been due for release a couple of weeks earlier, but the development team was almost a year behind schedule. Half-Life 2 , one of the most anticipated games of the year, was going to be late, and Newell had yet to admit to the public how late it would be. Such a leak was not only financially threatening, but also embarrassing.
After he had spent a few moments pondering these immediate concerns, an avalanche of questions tumbled through Newell's mind. How had this happened? Had the leak come from within Valve? Which member of his team, having given years of their life to building the game, would jeopardise the project in the final hour?
If it wasn't an inside job, how did it happen? Did someone have access to Valve's internal server?

The question that rang loudest of all will be familiar to anyone who has ever had something stolen from them: who did this?
"I got into hacking by being infected myself," Gembe tells me. "It was a program that pretended to be aWarcraft 3 key generator and I was stupid enough to run it. It was an sdbot, a popular general-purpose malware at the time."
The young German soon realised what he had installed on his PC. But instead of scrubbing the malware and forgetting about it, he reverse-engineered the program to see how it worked and what it did.
By following the trail back, Gembe was able to track down its operator. Rather than confronting the man, Gembe began asking him questions about the malware.
"At the time I couldn't a afford to buy games," he explains. "So I coded my own malware to steal CD keys in order to unlock the titles I wanted to play. It grew quickly to one of the most prominent malwares at the time, mostly because I started writing exploits for some unpatched vulnerabilities in Windows."
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Source : ars

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