One of the reasons for Steam's ongoing popularity is its trading platform. Introduced a couple of years ago, it lets you earn digital cards that you can trade for real world cash. With a bit of luck and savviness, you could end up fuelling your purchases for the year with trading.
However, the very same feature has made active Steam accounts a juicy target for hackers. This is something Valve is aware of, as outlined in its latest blog post:
"What used to be a handful of hackers is now a highly effective, organised network, in the business of stealing and selling items. It would be easier for them to go after the users who don't understand how to stay secure online, but the prevalence of items make it worthwhile to target everyone. We see around 77,000 accounts hijacked and pillaged each month. These are not new or naïve users; these are professional CS:GO players, reddit contributors, item traders, etc. Users can be targeted randomly as part of a larger group or even individually. Hackers can wait months for a payoff, all the while relentlessly attempting to gain access. It's a losing battle to protect your items against someone who steals them for a living."
"We can help users who've been hacked by restoring their accounts and items, but that doesn't deter the business of hacking accounts. It's only getting worse."
(Also see: Here's Why Steam's INR Pricing Does Not Benefit Anyone Right Now)
In order to prevent this from happening, its instituting trade holds which are outlined below:
- Anyone losing items in a trade will need to have a Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator,enabled on their account for at least 7 days and have trade confirmations turned on. Otherwise, items will be held by Steam for up to 3 days before delivery.
- If you've been friends with anyone on Steam for at least 1 year, items will be held by Steam for up to 1 day before delivery.
- Accounts with a Mobile Authenticator enabled for at least 7 days are no longer restricted from trading or using the Market when using a new device since trades on the new device will be protected by the Mobile Authenticator.
It goes to show that even with what's perceived to be the safest of measures, hackers are relentless. Valve isn't alone though, Blizzard has long fought this problem with games like Diablo III and World of Warcraft and continues to do so. With the ever increasing popularity of Steam, we won't be surprised if this is just the first of many measures from Valve to prevent hackers from usurping the system.
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