Hackers looking to gain access to victims’ computers hid malware inside of Call of Duty: Warzone cheats, a report by Activision revealed.
The report, titled "Cheating Cheaters: Malware Delivered as Call of Duty Cheats," showed that posts on underground hacking forums advertised the malware-spreading method and it gained popularity quickly.
As far back as March 2020, "a threat actor posted on multiple hacking forums advertising a free, 'newbie friendly,' and 'effective' method, for spreading a remote access trojan," according to the report.
The fake cheats were posted on a popular cheating site in April 2020 and advertised as a "new CoD hack." And the same fake cheat was posted again as recently as March 1, 2021.
YouTube videos also advertised the cheats and included instructions to run the fake cheat program as an admin and disable antivirus settings. Many likely fell victim to the scam.
"When it comes down to it, the dependencies for a 'genuine' cheat to work are the same as those needed by most malware tools to successfully execute," the report reads. "System protections need to be bypassed or disabled, and privileges need to be escalated to allow the program to run correctly and/or establish persistence. While this method is rather simplistic, it is ultimately a social engineering technique that leverages the willingness of its target (players that want to cheat) to voluntarily lower their security protections and ignore warnings about running potentially malicious software."
In February, Warzone's developers revealed that 300,000 accounts had been banned for cheating or hacking since the game's launch in March 2020. Several ban waves have occurred since then, too.
The in-depth report by Activision's Central Tech team can be viewed in its entirety online in PDF format.