Hack attacks target Epic, Nintendo, Bethesda

Game publishers are under increasing attack from Internet ne'er-do-wells, with customers of Epic Games becoming the latest victim of information theft and Nintendo warning of a new threat to its own users.

The floodgates appeared to open when Sony was attacked by digital vigilantes over its handling of the Other OS removal from its PlayStation 3 gaming platform. Since then, a number of other gaming companies have been attacked, with the most recent being UK-based publisher Codemasters.

Gaming house Epic Games, best known for its Unreal game engine which powers a vast quantity of modern games on a variety of platforms from consoles to tablets, has become the latest in a long list of victims. According to a notification on the company's forums, the site's recent downtime was due to an attack from persons unknown.

"Our Epic Games web sites and forums were recently hacked," chief executive Tim Sweeney confirmed in a surprisingly frank statement. "We're working on getting them back up and running, and expect everything to be restored in a few days.

"The hackers likely obtained the email addresses and encrypted passwords of forum users," Sweeney verified. "Plain text passwords weren't revealed, but short or common passwords could be obtained by brute-force attack. Therefore, we're resetting all passwords. If you have an account on the Epic Games forums, you can request to receive your new password by email it to the address we have on file for you."

Users who are part of the Unreal Developer Network, formed of companies and individuals who license the company's game engine for use in their own products, are not thought to have been included in the data leaked by the attack.

"None of our web sites ask for, or store, credit card information or other sensitive customer data," Sweeney explained. "We're sorry for the inconvenience, and appreciate everyone's patience as we get our servers back under control."

As Epic resets a swathe of passwords, the European arm of gaming giant Nintendo is taking action against what it claims is a 'possible phishing threat' against its users.

"We have learnt of a possible phishing threat to users of the European Nintendo website which we are currently investigating," a Nintendo spokesperson explained. "The protection of our customers is our utmost priority and so we have taken the precaution of immediately shutting down some parts of this website until further notice.

"We would like to reassure you that we do not hold our customer's bank, credit card or address details on the European Nintendo website and so this data is not at risk," the company has claimed.

These two latest attacks show a growing trend for crackers and other ne'er-do-wells to target gaming companies, which can be a source of valuable data including verified e-mail addresses and in some cases - although thankfully not in these - even credit card details.

With cracker group LulzSec warning users of multiplayer shooter Brink, published by Bethesda, that they are next on the list, the problem looks set to get worse before it gets better. While it means that Sony needn't feel so victimised, it's certainly bad news for gamers and the games industry as a whole.