Rockstar Games has confirmed that a hacker penetrated its systems and stole in-development footage of Grand Theft Auto VI, which is now circulating online.
Word of the hack began circulating over the weekend as an unknown hacker going by variations of the name "Teapotuberhacker" began uploading in-development footage of what was purportedly the next title in the Grand Theft Auto series (informally named "Grand Theft Auto VI," pending the announcement of an actual name).
"We recently suffered a network intrusion in which an unauthorized third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from our systems, including early development footage for the next Grand Theft Auto," the company wrote in a statement posted to social media. "At this time, we do not anticipate any disruption to our live game services nor any long-term effect on the development of our ongoing projects."
The company went on to state that work on the next Grand Theft Auto game would "continue as planned" and that it would properly introduce its next game "when it is ready."
It's not clear how much information the hacker managed to obtain in the breach. A user posting under the name of Teapotuberhacker on a Grand Theft Auto fan forum claimed to have downloaded the stolen content from a Rockstar Games Slack channel. They also said they had exports from the company's Confluence page.
Said forum has now removed copies of the footage and warned users about posting copyrighted material. Teapotuberhacker's account has also been banned.
Rockstar Games and publisher Take-Two have not formally announced the next Grand Theft Auto game, though Take-Two did inform investors that development of the much-anticipated next entry in the series was "well underway" back in February. In July, the company announced that Red Dead Online's team would wind down work on the online open-world spinoff of Red Dead Redemption 2 to support development on Grand Theft Auto VI.
The Grand Theft Auto hack might be the biggest in development history
It's been a very long time since a game developer suffered a hack of this scale. Though development studios and publishers suffer different forms of hacks and cyberattacks on a regular basis, it's been a long time since we've seen such a hack that could do so much financial damage to a developer.
What makes this attack so unusual is how the footage reveals so much visibility on the development of Grand Theft Auto VI, along with the possibility that leaked game code is now in the wind (the preponderance of imposters attempting to run scams makes it difficult to tell if any Grand Theft Source Code was obtained in the hack).
A Message from Rockstar Games pic.twitter.com/T4Wztu8RW8— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) September 19, 2022
The closest security breach in terms of scale would be the theft of Half-Life 2's source code from Valve in 2003, which contained a nearly playable version of the game a year before it would be released. Earlier this year, hackers also managed to obtain an early build of the Electronic Arts' upcoming multiplayer game Skate.
In 2021, work on CD Projekt's various games ground to a halt after the company suffered a ransomware attack.
Rockstar Games did say that it doesn't "anticipate" any disruption to the development of "ongoing projects," but if the hacker managed to steal any code samples from the game, it could still add extra work for the development team to ensure said code can't be exploited in the future.
Any disruption of Rockstars' systems (particularly the ones maintaining Grand Theft Auto Online, a huge source of revenue for Rockstar and Take-Two) could have huge ripple effects. There's no doubt that an exhausted security team is still analyzing the extent of the breach as we speak.
Expect lawsuits from Rockstar
Rockstar Games and publisher Take-Two are among the more litigious entities in the video game industry, often filing DMCA takedown requests and lawsuits in the interest of protecting their intellectual property. It's likely that the Grand Theft Auto developer's legal team is preparing a high-value case as we speak.
Targets of the pairs' legal ire have included Grand Theft Auto modders, cheat makers, the BBC, and former series developer Mike Dailly. Dailly had shared prototype videos from the development of the original Grand Theft Auto, only to receive copyright strikes from Rockstar Games.
Such aggressive action definitely gives Rockstar plenty of ground to go after this most recent hacker. What will be interesting is to see how Rockstar frames the damage it's suffered when compared to today's declaration of no anticipated "disruptions."
The company will have plenty of ground to seek compensation for the violation of its intellectual property and damage to its public image (it won't be great to have screenshots from the leak floating around when your average players looks for information on Grand Theft Auto VI), but such a lawsuit may also shine a light on how the hack financially impacted the development of such a major video game.
Shares of publisher Take-Two are already dipping on the stock market—though the drop doesn't seem to compare to other hits to its stock price in the last six months.
There's a lot to try and parse in such a large, comprehensive leak. What has to be frustrating for the developers at Rockstar is that if the hacker's claims of accessing the Slack channel via a "social engineering hack" are true, then that means one or more employees were tricked into giving up sensitive login information.
That means the affected employee and any of their colleagues are going through a hell of a time right now, and there's likely to be a dip in morale. Here's hoping that Rockstar is treating the colleague at the heart of the breach with sensitivity. They're as much a victim in this situation as their employer is.