Although attacks on Microsoft Live and PlayStation Network were promised by hacking groups for the holidays, it ended up being Steam that went offline over the Christmas weekend. Although initial reports were vague and left users wondering if this was a hack or just a terribly-timed internal problem, the service is now back online and Valve is ready to explain what happened.
Steam was not hacked, but did suffer from an internal caching error that allowed players to potentially see secure information from other accounts. Until the caching error was resolved, Steam had to be taken offline. The vulnerability was only in place for about an hour before the service went dark, but Valve does not believe that any unauthorized actions took place during this time.
The problem only impacted some users and the company assures users that the most sensitive data like credit card numbers and contact information were “censored and not visible to users, as required by law.”
Although the company doesn’t believe anyone’s accounts have been compromised, users should definitely reach out to Steam customer support if they notice anything suspicious in their account activity. Anyone who was ever worked with Steam customer service knows that it isn’t the most expedient process, so hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Considering the number of hacked accounts every month at Steam, it’s a good idea to always keep a close eye on your account.
Although it is still unfortunate that the service went offline on what was sure to be a major traffic day, it is a relief to learn that hackers weren’t involved and no sensitive information (that we know about) was leaked. Hackers have tried to ruin the holidays for companies (and gamers as a side effect) for the last couple of holidays and it is nice to have had a weekend where gamers could actually play the console games they received as gifts without problems. There are definitely pros and cons to the age of always online, digital gaming and the reliance on the security of services like Xbox Live, PSN, and Steam is a major downside.
The Steam Winter Sale carries on and gamers can now get back to spending a ton of money and piling up an enormous stack of digital games that may or may not ever get played. Happy holidays!
Have you noticed any strange activity on your Steam account? Have you logged back into the service now that it is online? Let us know in the comments.