NEWS BRIEF

Half-Life 2 Code Thieves Nabbed by FBI

Arrests have been made in several countries stemming from the October 2003 theft of computer source code for a Half-Life 2, a much-anticipated sequel to the popular computer game Half-Life.

Tips from an online gaming community led to the arrests after an eight-month investigation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation into the theft, according to a statement released this week by Valve Corp. of Bellevue, Washington, which makes the game.

Gamers Join Pursuit

“Within a few days of the announcement of the break-in, the online gaming community had tracked down those involved,” says Gabe Newell, Valve’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “It was extraordinary to watch how quickly and how cleverly gamers were able to unravel what are traditionally unsolvable problems for law enforcement related to this kind of cybercrime.”

Valve did not reveal details about the arrests and referred questions to the FBI’s Northwest Cyber Crime Task Force.

Outlook Vulnerability Exploited

While few details of the theft have emerged since October, Newell said at the time that the source code was stolen in September by hackers who systematically compromised the company’s computer systems by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail client on Newell’s computer, installing keystroke capture software to acquire passwords and other security credentials, then stealing a copy of the Half-Life 2 source code.

Unconfirmed reports last month suggested that a German man recently charged with creating a ubiquitous Trojan horse program named “Agobot” or “Phatbot” may have been behind the Valve code theft as well.

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