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Researchers Expose Security Flaws in EA’s Origin Gaming Platform

Gamers have an additional safety consideration this morning, thanks in part to the platforms developed by houses such as EA, which expose them to risk by design. Two Malta-based researchers presented findings last week during Black Hat Europe that show a combination of issues that can expose gamers to cyberattack.

Gamers have an additional safety consideration this morning, thanks in part to the platforms developed by houses such as EA, which expose them to risk by design. Two Malta-based researchers presented findings last week during Black Hat Europe that show a combination of issues that can expose gamers to cyberattack.

Origin is a gaming platform used by Electronic Arts (EA) to sell games, and manage DRM. Some of the platform’s most popular titles, such as Crysis 3, Sim City, and Battlefield 3 – boast millions of players worldwide. During their talk at Black Hat Europe, Luigi Auriemma and Donato Ferrante said that gaming is a legitimate attack vector, and that games in general represent an underestimated field for security.

The reasoning is a sound one, there millions of online players, and a near equal number of games, translating into “thousands of attack vectors and millions of potential victims,” the researchers explained.

The growth of anti-cheating and anti-piracy measures means that platforms such as Origin (and Steam) require PC gamers to elevate the platform’s permissions or run games as an administrator on the system, leading to additional risk. Like their previous work on the Steam gaming platform, Luigi Auriemma and Donato Ferrante focused on Origin’s URI (origin://) for their presentation.

By calling the Origin URI, an attacker is able to execute code on the victim’s system. In most cases, the attack is automatic and requires no interaction from the user’s side of the equation. In a paper presented with their talk, the researchers outlined one attack where Crysis 3 was targeted via a DLL within the game’s engine. Calling the Origin URI within a malicious webpage, the attacker can focus on Crysis 3’s openautomate.dll parameters and execute code at will. By the time the victim notices anything, assuming they notice at all, the attack has concluded.

Gamers with Origin installed on their systems are vulnerable, on either Windows or Macintosh. Mitigation for this problem, again which exists on both the Origin and Steam gaming platforms, is to disable the custom URI handler on the system or within the browser.

Slides form the Black Hat talk are online (PDF), as is the paper presented with the presentation. They’ve also created a video demonstrating their research – it can be seen in the video below.

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