Minecraft’s maker Mojang has said that it was not hacked, and instead user details were collected by a phishing attack.
According to the story, email addresses and passwords of 1,800 Minecraft users were posted online and published online in plain-text format. Heise found that the details would allow strangers to log into each of those user’s accounts on Minecraft to play online, and download the game to their own computers.
Mojang said in a statement that it had not been hacked, instead a “bunch of bad people have tricked some of our users into disclosing their account information”.
It said: “No-one has gained access to the Mojang mainframe. Even if they did, we store your passwords in a super encrypted format. Honestly, you don’t need to panic.
“The bad people got their hands on other people’s passwords by using an evil technique called phishing. That basically means they pretend to be Mojang and fool people into entering their private details onto fake websites.”
Jonathan French, security analyst at AppRiver said that specifically with gaming, he suspected a large majority of users use the same usernames elsewhere online. “With gaming as popular as it is online, you can usually Google someone’s username in a game and get an idea of other games they play as well from statistic trackers and forums,” he said. “So in the case of someone reusing usernames and passwords, this can be a huge impact on them by just one game getting compromised.”
In an email to IT Security Guru, Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs, suspected that those 1,800 users fell for the phishing attack. “I remember a case a year ago when a number of Yahoo users credentials were compromised; they were not hacked, in fact they realised a good number of their users could have their credentials compromised and took action proactively,” he said.
“Then we have the case of the five million Gmail credentials in September last year. Google was not hacked either. My bets go to either a specific phishing campaign against Minecraft users, or a fan Minecraft forum hacked.”
David Harley, senior research fellow at ESET, told IT Security Guru that he felt that the statement from Mojanh clearly contradicted any assertion that the passwords were stored unencrypted.
“Given the small number of exposed credentials (as far as we know at present), a well-implemented phishing campaign doesn’t seem impossible, though I haven’t found an example of the phishing message to evaluate,” he said.
“It’s not unknown for a compromised site to ignore a breach or blame it on its users, of course, but Microsoft is pretty careful to avoid that sort of weasel behaviour nowadays, and Microsoft is Mojang’s parent company. It does sound as if they did the right thing in notifying affected users and encouraging other users to play safe.
“Spotting unusual login or gaming behaviour that might indicate a compromised account is probably quite difficult with such a large userbase. I know Twitter is quite good at spotting compromised accounts, but that’s probably (at least in part) due to the type of content a hijacked account starts posting.”