Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is among the most popular titles of the modern video game era. The open-world game – centered around a series of morally dubious tasks – has sold hundreds of millions of copies. The most recent entry, GTA 5, launched in 2013 and has sold over 170 million units. Needless to say, fans of the series have been eagerly awaiting a follow-up ever since.

In February 2022, developer Rockstar Games confirmed it had started work on the next installment of the GTA franchise. Details were thin, with the company merely outlining its ambitions to “significantly move beyond” what it had offered in previous entries. The internet lit up. Gamers coalesced around Reddit threads, Twitter posts, and Discord servers, speculating about how the game – colloquially referred to as GTA 6 – would look on the current-gen consoles, and just how wild it would be. And then in September 2022, a GTAForums user going by the handle “teapotuberhacker” uploaded over 90 videos featuring many hours of unfinished GTA 6 gameplay footage. 

Rockstar Games had been hacked.

The impacts of an unprecedented content leak

Take-Two Interactive – the parent company of Rockstar Games – moved quickly to have the videos pulled from GTAForums. The firm leveraged copyright claims, saying it had generated the footage during internal testing processes and was therefore proprietary in nature. GTAForums duly complied with Take-Two Interactive’s requests, but for the developers, it was already too late. 

Many social media users took the files teapotuberhacker had stolen, reposting them across a smorgasbord of platforms. Videos showing roughly rendered locations and quirky character interactions soon became fodder for countless amped-up gamers. Some were spooked by the seeming lack of quality in the game, while others lambasted them for thinking GTA 6 was even close to finished. Many speculated about the direction the game was going in, while some simply lamented the best days of the series were surely behind it.

But for Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive, things were about to get even worse.

The biggest video game hack of all time

It wasn’t enough for the online gaming community to trawl through behind-the-scenes testing footage. Many wanted to know what else the hacker had in their possession.

A GTA enthusiast posted a message chain to Twitter, claiming they had contacted teapotuberhacker via WhatsApp. TheTwitter user pretended to be a developer working on GTA 6, and prodded teapotuberhacker to reveal what they had taken from Rockstar’s servers. According to the conversation thread, the hacker claimed to have source code for several Rockstar Games titles, including GTA 5 and GTA 6.

A separate conversation between GTA fans revealed teapotuberhacker was interested in selling the GTA 5 source code for at least five-figures. The participants in the group chat noted teapotuberhacker wanted to hold on to the GTA 6 code, suggesting Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive were likely being extorted. 

Soon the GTA community and the broader video game industry came to realize that they were witnessing the fallout of possibly the biggest video game hack of all time.

The danger is not over yet

At the time of writing, it’s hard to quantify what financial damage – if any – has been done to Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games. As a publicly traded company, Take-Two Interactive has published a note for investors, informing them it has “taken steps to isolate and contain [the] incident.” But as already noted, perhaps the longer-lasting problem is the perception that has been created in the minds of fans that have waited almost a decade for another GTA title.

iThreat’s SignalAlert detects video game content leaks

iThreat’s SignalAlert helps entertainment brands keep their most sensitive content under wraps. SignalAlert continuously scours the web in real-time, probing forums, message boards, social media platforms – seeking out the stuff that shouldn’t be out in the world yet. And should you suffer a large-scale breach, SignalAlert is also there to help you handle the fallout.

With 25 years in the business, we know what it takes to not only hunt down your stolen content but also how to help you get back control. From providing advice on pulling content from social platforms to monitoring for further leaks, iThreat’s SignalAlert is the ultimate power-up for your company.

See what SignalAlert can do for you and say “game over” to the bad guys.

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    Founded in 1997, iThreat has assisted hundreds of clients with thousands of internet monitoring and investigations, including multiple successful multinational law enforcement operations.

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