Grand Theft Auto V Can Cause Malware Infection on PCs

The spam campaign is offering victims a beta invite to the GTA V on the PC as bait that ultimately leads to a malware infection.

Security vendor Trend Micro is warning about a spam campaign that is targeting gamers looking to play "Grand Theft Auto V" (GTA V) on the PC.

GTA V is the latest iteration of the popular gaming franchise, but to date, the game has only been available on gaming consoles and not on the PC. The spam campaign is offering victims a beta invite to the GTA V on the PC as bait that ultimately leads to a malware infection.

Christopher Budd, Trend Micro's threat communications manager, explained to eWEEK that the malware comes as an executable named "your promo code." He added that the victim has to open the zip file and run the executable for the malware to work.

While there is a group of Internet users likely to be very attracted to the GTA V beta offer, the spam campaign isn't being specifically targeted against some kind of gamer list from any known source.

"There's no indication of any data compromise behind this attack; this is a classic, indiscriminate spam campaign," Budd said.

The defense against the attack is relatively simple: Users just need to have an up-to-date antivirus technology running on their PCs.

Trend Micro successfully protects against this malware, according to Budd. "While we can't speak for other vendors, typically protections for threats such as this come out fairly quickly throughout the industry," Budd said.

Spam campaigns targeted against gamers are nothing new, and according to Budd, they represent a lucrative lure for criminals who know that gamers are a particularly eager audience, making them a good target. Gamers are particularly eager when there's a demand for an application or game on one platform where it’s not yet available, he said.

"Attackers exploit that demand gap by giving false leads for how to get nonexistent versions of the hot game or application on that platform [as in this case] or other times by providing fake, malicious versions of the hot application or game on that platform," Budd said.

PhishMe co-founder and CTO Aaron Higbee explained to eWEEK that attackers hoping to spread malware through phishing emails need an emotional hook to get the recipient to click quickly with reckless abandon.

"It's no surprise PC gamers anxiously anticipating one of the biggest blockbusters in game history might fall for this," Higbee said. "Large organizations are aware of this and do a pretty good job at keeping nuisance malware inside of zip files out."

Even though the malware zip file method may be considered low sophistication by enterprise defenders, consumers certainly need to be suspicious of unsolicited emails with zipped attachments, Higbee said.

Joe DeMesy, senior security analyst at BishopFox, told eWEEK that the GTA V spam campaign is just the latest in a long history of email viruses that goes all the way back to the the "I Love You" virus, which was unleashed on the Internet nearly 15 years ago. "However, the reason we still see these types of attacks is that they work," DeMesy said. "For all the millions of dollars spent every year on antivirus and other security products, people still open executable email attachments—a solemn reminder that we have yet to solve the human aspects of computer security, let alone the technical ones."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.