(Credit: Epic Games)

Game streaming platform Rainway said Monday that tens of thousands of its users were infected by malware believed to have come from a Fornite cheating app, as reported by Engadget. Rainway tracked the behavior down to a single Windows app that's loaded with malware designed to redirect all of a device's Internet traffic so that the user sees a bunch of ads.

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Rainway CEO Andrew Sampson said on the company blog that the suspicious activity began on June 26th, when his service began to receive an unusual blizzard of traffic that was attempting to contact servers that deliver advertisements. After some investigation, Rainway discovered that every one of these ad requests was coming from people who were using Rainway to stream Fortnite.

Putting two and two together, the company concluded that some malware was involved, and it wrote a small utility to match the malware's behavior to particular apps. Sadly, there's a cottage industry of malware targeting Fortnite users, because of the game's explosive popularity, so it took hours to confirm a match.

According to Rainway, the cheating app had been downloaded over 78,000 times by the time the company discovered it. It promised to provide an unlimited flow of in-game currency and an aimbot, the latter of which is a type of hack that automates the targeting of your opponents. This proved quite enticing: "[T]wo birds with one stone," said Andrew Sampson. "How could someone resist?"

Rainway reported this Windows app to the website that was hosting it, and it was removed. Rainway also sent a warning out to all its users, and it enabled certificate pinning. This malware installs a fake root certificate; certificates are used to verify that a given website is what it says it is, which is critical when you're logging into something like a bank account.

Certificate pinning overrides a fake by forcing the device to double-check against a portion of another certificate that's located in a public database. It's kind of like a publicly searchable image gallery of keys that you could check to confirm that the one on your key ring comes from a legitimate key manufacturer.

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As we've mentioned before, downloading unfamiliar apps from unfamiliar websites can be a pretty risky endeavor. But there are loads of videos on YouTube promising to make you a Fortnite god -- or reverse an account ban triggered by cheat detection -- if you install this or that piece of software. The videos have become so common that they are impossible to avoid if you're just looking for gameplay clips, so they're bound to catch some people in the net.

The takeaways

  1. It's unfortunate that some people make ends meet by screwing over others, but since their targets are cheaters, you won't see much outrage until this spills over to players who are minding their own business. But at this rate, it's only a matter of time.
  2. One other popular target is Android users, for whom Fortnite has not yet been released. Any website or app that promises to get Fortnite on your Android phone or tablet is very likely to be a scam.

Also see

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.