Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) was being targeted by criminals for money laundering, according to the US video game developer, Valve. In a statement, the makers told that the aim of the attackers is to “liquidate their gains”.
Developed by Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment, CS: GO is a popular multiplayer, first-person shooter game in which two teams go against each other strategically completing given objectives such as diffusing bombs and rescuing hostages.
The game allows players to earn cosmetic upgrades for their guns and avatars in loot containers, normally these boxes can only be opened via a key that players have to buy from Valve. However, the makers observed that “worldwide fraud networks have recently shifted to using CS: GO keys to liquidate their gains. At this point, nearly all key purchases that end up being traded or sold on the marketplace are believed to be fraud-sourced.” The fraudsters exploited the loot gathering systems in the game to trade keys which further allowed them to unlock rewards for real money.
As a security measure, the company has updated the game in a manner that shuts down the ability to transfer new loot box container keys among users in the game.
“CS: GO container keys purchased in-game can no longer leave the purchasing account. That is, they cannot be sold on the Steam Community Market or traded. Pre-existing CS: GO container keys are unaffected–those keys can still be sold on the Steam Community Market and traded,” the blog read.
In the blog post, the company also expressed concern for the effect this would have on legitimate players but also emphasized the need to combat fraud which they have on priority.
While the total amount of money laundered through the Steam marketplace remains ambiguous, hundreds of thousands of loot containers along with keys have been traded by the criminals via the online marketplace. Notably, the boxes and keys were traded for a few dollars each.
In the past seven years of its existence, CS: GO amid gaining massive popularity has unfortunately also attracted a number of disputable scenarios including illegal gambling and hidden business interests for social media influencers.