After GTA Online's rampant hacking issue was finally solved on PC last year, players could finally breath easy whenever jumping into a lobby that they won't be met with infinite exploding jets being spawned, crashing their game, or having cash dropped on them risking a ban.
The solution involved a rather draconian new approach to punishing hackers and cheaters, as well as an overhaul of their detection systems. The new system gives everyone a maximum of two strikes, with the second always being a permaban, and severe infractions result in such a ban the first time around.
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A non-permanent ban isn't much more lenient either, as it deletes all character progress. Once your ban is up, you can continue playing, but as a rank 1 newbie with $0 to their name. The best part? All bans are final. No appeals, not even in the extremely rare cases of false-positive bans (if you want to avoid these, check out our handy guide).
This new, strict approach to hackers and cheaters, coupled with the aforementioned overhauled and upgraded cheat-detection system resulted in a security net that was water-tight. For a time at least, or so it now seems.
While the odd hacker was sighted on PC every now and then, they were very rare in the past few months. Unfortunately the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are still rife with hackers, but those systems have been broken so long ago that enforcing any kind of anti-cheat system would be impossible. The current-gen consoles, on the other hand, have yet to be cracked.
However, it seems that this is as long as it lasted. The peace-times might have come to an end, based on a number of reports coming in from players describing a new kind of hack. While this particular hack is mostly harmless, the mere fact that hacks are back in any shape or form is troubling enough regardless.
The hack itself involves players having to get used to new, unwanted roommates. Who also tote miniguns. And sometimes shoot you. Basically, through as yet unknown means, players are straddled with an effect that causes random NPCs to spawn in personal apartments, occasionally with miniguns.
Various NPC models have been documented being used in this hack ranging from various military personnel to clowns. The purpose of this hack isn't known, as it doesn't cause crashes, doesn't siphon cash out of your in-game accounts nor does it release account information or do anything else malicious. At least, that's what it seems like so far.
The only way to fix this effect is to restart the game. Hopping to a new session won't solve the issue and the unwanted house guests will stay, maybe even take a shot at you for perceived grievances, provided they're of the minigun variant.
An odd property of this hack is that it affects players on a client level, not on a server level, meaning this isn't like your typical "everyone in the session is murdered with exploding jets falling from the sky". One player reported bringing a friend into their apartment while the minigun-wielding clown was present, and the other player did not see the NPC.
What's stranger is that it seems players aren't "targeted" specifically. This doesn't happen when you're playing in some random lobby and encounter a hacker who "infects" you with this weird new roommate. Some players saw the newcomer in their apartments upon logging in for the first time that day, and the hack wasn't active beforehand.
There is no telling what this phenomenon is the forerunner of. There are a number of troubling factors at work here, with this random appearance upon initial log-in being the most worrisome. Should a more harmful hack surface with a similar property, players will be even less safe than they were back in the worst days of the hacker crisis last year.
What if, instead of dumping a random NPC in your apartment, the next hack is a version of the infamous insurance fraud hack, with the difference being that mere logging into the game can cause you to start losing cash? This isn't just a rampant modder who you can escape by changing sessions, this is something that attacks indiscriminately and requires a reboot to be fixed.
The implications are troubling. While it's possible that Rockstar will get on top of the situation and fix this security liability before more devious hacks are unleashed, it took a hack that steals money for them to do anything last time. Is this kind of "insignificant hack" likely to gain their attention now?
We're hoping this isn't a taste of worse things to come and instead, is just a short bout of a hack that's funnier than it is harmful. In any case, we'll be tracking the situation closely in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for up to date news on the GTA Online hacker situation as this story develops.