In the spirit of Christmas giving, Steam gives your account details to others

It was around 3:30 this afternoon when I noticed people starting to complain about weirdness on Steam’s site. Attempts to connect to the site often resulted in a landing page in a different language (I didn’t even recognize the language I was seeing when I connected to the site), and if you logged into your account in the store, lo and behold, you were likely to see someone else’s account information – including their credit card number.

Steam’s community forum started going nuts, and there didn’t seem to be any moderator around to explain to users why they were seeing others’ accounts – many in Russia – and whether their own account balances and credit card info was now at risk.

If you happened to be on Reddit, you might have seen a somewhat reassuring post from driscan:

TL;DR: no one’s been hacked

Sysadmin here: no need to worry here, no one’s been hacked. It’s just a technical issue that involves the “caching servers” operated by Steam.

In short, Steam takes partial “snapshots” of webpages commonly loaded by users to increase performance and to reduce stress on their infrastructure. But they somewhat messed up while configuring their servers, which leads to these ackward pages.

Okay, no need to worry – unless someone copied down your credit card info?

Over on Twitter, there were also tons of “what’s happening?” queries, with people also reporting sudden access to other language accounts and details. @SteamDB did an admirable job of trying to keep people informed – even though they are not affiliated with Steam or Valve – while the official Steam and Valve Twitter accounts remained maddeningly silent.

Shortly before 4 pm Eastern, there appeared to have been a server overload, and access to Steam’s community forum literally went dark:


Later, it was announced that Steam had shut down the site altogether until it could deal with the problem it was experiencing.

Steam is back online now, and Valve gave a statement to Gamespot:

“Steam is back up and running without any known issues,” a Valve spokesperson told GameSpot. “As a result of a configuration change earlier today, a caching issue allowed some users to randomly see pages generated for other users for a period of less than an hour. This issue has since been resolved. We believe no unauthorized actions were allowed on accounts beyond the viewing of cached page information and no additional action is required by users.”

So how many users were potentially affected? Was it only the account info of logged-in users that was exposed or were all accounts randomly subject to exposure to others?

Valve may want this to go away with their “all clear” message, but I think they still have some questions to answer.

And what was this “configuration change,” anyway? Was it something they did because they feared a DDoS attack today? If so, it would certainly be ironic that their configuration change to keep the site working may have backfired.



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