The Microsoft issue is not as widespread as Sony's drama (the gaming network is still running, which is an obvious clue), but it is serious enough for the company to issue a Service Alert to warn all Xbox Live users of the potential security risk.
Be alert, not alarmed
According to the alert:
"Users may receive potential phishing attempts via title specific messaging while playing Modern Warfare 2.
We are aware of the problem and are working to resolve the issue. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience."
Robert Bowling, creative strategist at the game's development company, Infinity Ward, has also spoken out. "We have a patch in the process of testing for release that should be out soon," he said in a written statement.
A timely reminder
Of course, as we've covered previously, hacking and phishing schemes relating to video games are nothing new. This is a timely reminder to remain vigilant when connected to the internet, regardless of whether you're surfing, using email, chatting in an instant messenger program, or just playing a game.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released back in 2009, but it's certainly still going strong. For at least one week in April, it was the second-most played game on Xbox Live. (The only game with more unique players online? The next game in the franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops.)
The alert does not mean that you should stop playing your favorite titles, of course... far from it! Instead, simply be mindful of any messages you receive while playing.
Keep your eyes on the prize
While phishing messages on other services might be fairly straightforward (saying your computer has "a virus," or you need to contact the IRS, perhaps), video game spammers often get a little more creative. As we saw in Fraud of Warcraft, these fraudsters hit gamers where it hurts: their online accounts.
By simply posting a message in bright colors and ALL CAPS, the hackers have your attention, so it's easy to convince you that your account has been "hacked by SHARK at sharkshackingwebsite.com."
If you do choose to visit the website (obviously, we suggest you don't!), you will probably be asked for your user information to "verify" your account. Don't hand over the details! Instead of "validating"
At the very least, some scoundrel with your user credentials could end up running amok in several online games and earning you a permanent ban for their efforts. Even if you do get your account back, it may no longer be in good standing and you may be unable to connect to many online services.
Real companies don't ask
Remember, neither Microsoft nor Xbox will ask you for your Windows Live ID password via email, instant messenger, or the phone. Remember to only ever enter that password on secure, known Microsoft websites or through your Xbox 360 console.
Microsoft and Xbox have reminded gamers how to protect their online information and point out that if your Xbox Live account has been compromised, you should contact Xbox Support immediately.
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