A bug in the popular multiplayer game Grand Theft Auto (GTA) Online is leading to players losing progress and having their accounts blocked.
Were this a case of player login details being stolen and abused, it would be a fairly routine occurrence, but this GTA Online issue revolves around “partial remote code execution”.
That means malicious users can affect players’ PCs through GTA Online. There’s some good news here — it appears to affect only PC players, not those on Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
Rockstar has acknowledged the issue on Twitter, saying “we are aware of potential new exploits in GTA Online for PC, which we aim to resolve in an upcoming planned security-related Title Update”.
Despite being almost a decade old, GTA Online routinely attracts up to 150,000 to 180,000 concurrent players. Estimates of its annual revenue run from $500 million (£406 million) to $800 million. That’s the equivalent of the worldwide gross of a mid-table Marvel movie each year.
GTA Online bug history
This GTA Online issue came to the public’s attention a few days ago, thanks to game community member Tez2. An exploit allows malicious players to edit or even delete others’ GTA Online profiles. Their in-game rank can be altered, or how much money their character has.
A few days before Rockstar acknowledged the problem, Tez2 advised GTA Online fans, on Twitter, to “avoid playing without a firewall rule or playing at all!”
An exploit-blocking community-made “firewall” tool has been released online, but only a tiny fraction of regular players are likely to ever discover it exists.
The key question now is when Rockstar Games will be able to put out a security fix.
A comparable problem affected Dark Souls 3’s player-versus-player servers in January 2022, and that saw them taken offline until August 2022.
The GTA Online team has much greater reason to ensure its game stays live. This online component is largely responsible for the continued relevance of the GTA V universe. Publisher Take-Two Interactive announced GTA series revenues of almost $8 billion in 2022, accounting from when GTA V was first released in 2013. In 2018, it was crowned the most profitable media product of all time, with $6 billion in revenue.
Rockstar Games has not offered players any concrete advice, other than to “reach out to Rockstar Support” if they believe they have been affected by the exploit.
In the past week, the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy Definitive Edition also returned to Steam, having been pulled from PC storefronts in November 2021. While these remastered noughties classics were roundly panned by reviewers, Rockstar Games' decision was down to files “unintentionally” left in the game builds. This is believed to include music the publisher was no longer licensed to use.