Computer hackers have targeted Grand Theft Auto IV to spread destructive viruses across the world wide web, a leading software security expert revealed today.
The cyber criminals are tempting fans by illegally offering free downloads for bogus versions of the hit game for their PCs.
One specialist detected “Trojan” viruses aimed at the game, which sold six million copies in its first week, within two minutes of logging on.
John Safa, chief technical officer of software security company DriveSentry, said: “People are exploiting the popularity of Grand Theft Auto IV in a way which could bring mayhem to the internet.
“The only thing that many gamers can think of at the moment is Grand Theft Auto IV and hackers are using that interest to try to generate chaos as quickly as they can.”
Enthusiasts are being offered free Grand Theft Auto IV downloads and plug-ins on so-called peer-to-peer networks, where computer users share information without having to go through a central server or website.
Safa, a former hacker, said many young people use these networks to access each other's computers to download files for free and avoid copyright laws.
He found evidence of Trojans – programs that gain backdoor access to a user’s system to steal personal data – just two minutes after logging onto the popular Limewire network.
He said: “Hackers are bombarding the internet with viruses on file-sharing networks.
“While surfing on Limewire, I found a file claiming to offer a program for the XBOX 360 version of Grand Theft Auto IV that actually contained malware named Trojan Downloader.Win32.VB.dck.
“Such computer viruses have the potential to wipe out or steal sensitive information such as a user’s bank details or wipe out important files. Some of these links were offering free downloads for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto IV even though it is not available yet.
“I would urge anybody to tread very carefully around these links, as some links are designed to look official – or even better invest in a good anti-virus package that is capable of protection from the latest threats for their computer.”
Safa, whose antivirus and internet security company has just detected its one millionth computer virus, said that hackers were attempting to deliberately infect machines with similar tactics aimed at the last version of the game in 2005. Then, users were hit after scouring the internet for a program to find interactive sex scenes for the Grand Theft Auto San Andreas version.
He said: “Hackers are increasingly sophisticated in the way they disrupt the web. They will piggyback on anything popular to wreak havoc.”