The Fortnite franchise is definitely popular among kids and teens these days, and whether you love it or hate it, the hype doesn’t look as though it’s going to die down any time soon.
But regardless of how you feel about the franchise, there are teens as young as 14-years old out there, whom are earning thousands of pounds a week as part of a global hacking network built around the video game.
Twenty of these hackers have admitted they were able to gain enormous amounts of money by stealing the private gaming accounts of players and reselling them online.
While Fortnite is free to download and play, it was estimated to have made more than £1 billion through selling “skins”, which changes the appearance of a character, alongside other add-ons.
Hackers have sold accounts for as little as 25p and up to hundreds of pounds, depending on what they contain. Fortnite’s developer Epic Games have declined to comment on the investigation, but said they are working to improve account security.
A 14-year-old hacker said that he got involved in the scheme back in the summer, after becoming a victim of the hack himself. The unnamed teen said that he spent £50 of his own pocket money to grow his collection of skins, until he one day received a dreaded message.
“The email said that my password had been changed and two-factor authentication had been added by someone else. It felt horrible.” he said.
Two-factor authentication meant that he could only access his account by entering a specific code sent to an email address or by an app registered by the hacker.
He turned to Twitter to vent his irritation like many other victims did, which was where he saw new accounts with better items on sale.
“I was approached by someone who said I could buy an account for 25p and I could clearly see the account was worth a lot more. I bought it” he continued.
Despite knowing he was playing on a stolen account, but with many other players doing it and making a lot of money in the process, he soon became part of “Fortnite Cracking.”
“I was approached by a cracking team and they told me what it was and all about ‘combos’, ‘proxies’ and I guess they showed me how to crack.”
The teen also said he was shown where to find the list of usernames and passwords published online from other data breaches over the years.
He was shown where to buy “off-the-shelf” hacker tools needed in order to input those credentials into Fortnite’s login page. Once he was inside the account, he was shown how to take it over before selling it back to the online community.
He claims to have only carried out one “cracking” session, but within a single day he was able to access more than 1,000 Fortnite accounts.
“It’s lucky dip basically, you either get a good account or you don’t. People like the rarity of ‘skins’ and it’s about the look of them and showing off to friends.”
The hacker then became a middleman for other crackers and continued to sell on accounts which he knew were stolen. In just a few weeks, he made around £1,500 and spent the money on more games as well as a new bicycle.
He also claimed that he was fully aware that was he was doing was illegal, but his parents were also aware of his activity and didn’t stop him.
“Fortnite cracking” falls under the Computer Misuse Act, which carries a possible prison sentence of two years.
The National Crime Agency said there is a long-established link between video games and hacking, and that publishers need to do more to prevent players being tempted into this kind of crime.
Ethan Thomas of the NCA said, “What we want to see these companies do is not look at this from a purely technical standpoint.”
He added, “What we’d like…is the gaming industry engaging more with law enforcement and looking at early intervention messaging on their platforms to divert [youngsters] on to a more ethical and legal path.”
Debbie Tunstall, who runs rehabilitation days for low-level hackers who have been caught, says she is concerned about the cracking community in networks such as Fortnite.
“We know that these sorts of activities are linked to organised crime and we know that they are being egged on by more dangerous people behind the scenes,” she said.
“There is definitely cyber-crime grooming taking place and if we don’t act they could easily get taken down that route.”
Epic Games were first made aware of the issue back in March of this year, when it said they were looking into the problem. Hackers have said accessing an account can be extremely hard if players add a two-factor authentication to their accounts.
While Epic Games encourages this extra security measure and rewards those who use it, with in-game accessories, the company has still opted not to make the measure mandatory. When really it should be mandatory already, considering just how long this issue has been in existence. Plus, with over 200 million players enjoying the game worldwide, it does make you wonder whether Fortnite is actually safe to play, doesn’t it?
Story by Emily Clark
Featured Photo Credit: