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Those cheap digital item keys you bought might have been swiped by the Chinese government

Say it ain’t so…

Hacker on computer security chinese government
Image: Tech Everywhere

We’ve all seen the reports of the legalities of gray market digital goods markets like G2A or Kinguin, and now at least, some of those claims seem to have a basis in fact.

APT41 is a Chinese government-backed hacking group who has been stealing intellectual-property (IP) from the medical device and pharma industries since 2012. It’s also got a side gig – hacking the video game market for personal gain.

APT41 was making cash on the side by hacking video-game supply chains

The report in the MIT Technology Review references another report from American cybersecurity firm FireEye.

In it, the Chinese-sponsored hacking group is linked to IP thefts, supply chain compromises at companies such as Asus, and other hacks under the supervision of Beijing. It also links the group to some extra-curricular activities, where they hacked for personal profit. The target? The supply chain of digital codes for virtual currency from popular online games, as well as more traditional ransomware + extortion combos.

  • Created in 2012, APT41 has also been known as Barium and Winnti
  • The group changed targeting tactics after American president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping came to an agreement about IP theft in 2015

The virtual currency hacks likely earned it tens of millions of dollars, with the keys sold on underground markets. It’s also likely that some of those keys found their way onto gray market sites, where unsuspecting customers purchased what they thought were legitimate codes.

What do you think? Surprised by the news regarding Chinese hacking? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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