Valve explains fault, and apologises for Christmas Steam hacks

Steam valveOn Christmas day, it was reported that 34,000 Steam users had their personal information revealed to others, resulting in the loss of money from Steam accounts. Last night, Valve came clean about the whole situation, telling its users what happened exactly. The company also apologised.

On their Steam updates page, a posting read “On December 25th, a configuration error resulted in some users seeing Steam Store pages generated for other users. Between 11:50 PST and 13:20 PST store page requests for about 34k users, which contained sensitive personal information, may have been returned and seen by other users.

The content of these requests varied by page, but some pages included a Steam user’s billing address, the last four digits of their Steam Guard phone number, their purchase history, the last two digits of their credit card number, and/or their email address. These cached requests did not include full credit card numbers, user passwords, or enough data to allow logging in as or completing a transaction as another user.”

It is worth noting, if you may not have logged into Steam over the holidays, that “If you did not browse a Steam Store page with your personal information (such as your account page or a checkout page) in this time frame, that information could not have been shown to another user.” In that case, you’re pretty safe. Still,  it’s worth reviewing your account just to be on the safe side.

Ok, so it happened, but how did it happen? If you’re interested, read on.

“Early Christmas morning (Pacific Standard Time), the Steam Store was the target of a DoS attack which prevented the serving of store pages to users. Attacks against the Steam Store, and Steam in general, are a regular occurrence that Valve handles both directly and with the help of partner companies, and typically do not impact Steam users. During the Christmas attack, traffic to the Steam store increased 2000% over the average traffic during the Steam Sale.

In response to this specific attack, caching rules managed by a Steam web caching partner were deployed in order to both minimize the impact on Steam Store servers and continue to route legitimate user traffic. During the second wave of this attack, a second caching configuration was deployed that incorrectly cached web traffic for authenticated users. This configuration error resulted in some users seeing Steam Store responses which were generated for other users. Incorrect Store responses varied from users seeing the front page of the Store displayed in the wrong language, to seeing the account page of another user.

Once this error was identified, the Steam Store was shut down and a new caching configuration was deployed. The Steam Store remained down until we had reviewed all caching configurations, and we received confirmation that the latest configurations had been deployed to all partner servers and that all cached data on edge servers had been purged.”

steam store

As stated above, Valve have apologised, but annoyingly it was the DDOS attack that led to this. However, a service like Steam should be able to contain personal user data, but unfortunately attackers will do what they can to corrupt a system, and no amount of safeguarding can protect a service forever.

“We will continue to work with our web caching partner to identify affected users and to improve the process used to set caching rules going forward. We apologize to everyone whose personal information was exposed by this error, and for interruption of Steam Store service.”

[Source: Steam]

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