NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – A cyber crime task force has arrested several people in a number of countries for hacking into the computer systems of Valve Software, stealing and ultimately releasing the source code for "Half Life 2," one of the gaming industry's most anticipated titles.
|Many expect "Half-Life 2" to help reverse the sales slump in the PC gaming industry.
The number of people arrested, when the arrests took place and whether any official charges were filed remains unclear. News of the arrests came from Valve Thursday in a brief news release. Calls to Valve and the criminal task force involved in the arrests were not returned.
In its statement, however, Valve, which has long had a close relationship with its fan base, credited the gaming community for making the arrests possible.
"Within a few days of the announcement of the break-in, the online gaming community had tracked down those involved," said Valve CEO Gabe Newell 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 cyber-crime."
Somewhere around Sept. 11, 2003, computer hackers broke into the computers of Valve Software, possibly using a security hole in Microsoft's Outlook Express, installing keystroke recorders. Eight days later they made a copy of the game's source tree.
Seemingly angry about "Half-Life 2" missing its announced release date, the hackers released the source code to the Internet on Oct. 2. Five days later, they released a playable build of portions of the game.
The theft, combined with developmental hurdles, further delayed the game. To date, Valve has not announced a firm ship date for "Half-Life 2," though it does maintain the game will be out this summer.
The lack of an actual product hasn't prevented bootleg copies of the game from showing up on the black market, however. Pirate versions appeared on store shelves in Russia in January, which were said to be fully playable, albeit with plot inconsistencies.
The Northwest Cyber Crime Task Force, which includes agents from the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, oversaw the investigation. That same group has overseen the arrest of several suspected hackers, including an 18-year old German student who has been charged with creating the Sasser worm.