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In a nutshell: The dark web is filled with stolen information for sale, from personal details to credit card numbers to login credentials. In the case of the latter, it's not just banking sites that criminals want to access—stolen video game accounts is a black market that now generates over $1 billion per year, a large portion of which comes from Fortnite logins.
A report from Night Lion Security titled "The Fortnite Underground Cybercrime Economy" reveals that hackers are using automated cracking tools that can probe 500 Fortnite accounts per second. The systems check whether credentials from previous leaks unrelated to the game will work with Fortnite. Despite warnings not to, millions of people still reuse the same passwords across multiple sites and services.
Some Fortnite accounts have valuable skins, and these accounts sell for between $200 and $250 each on average, according to Vinny Troia, Founder, Chief Security Research and Strategy at Night Lion Security (via Bloomberg News). Many of the more valuable accounts can go for thousands of dollars.
"They can't keep up with demand for certain accounts," Troia said. "They resell it to people wanting to play the game with that account. Maybe somebody just doesn't want to spend 100 hours of effort to get there."
Epic Games says selling Fortnite accounts is a violation of its Terms of Service, and it attempts to return them to the owners. The company uses protections including captcha, IP reputation, machine learning, and proprietary technology to block stolen accounts, but the hackers use tricks to bypass these systems; one said he pays more than $10,000 each month for proxy rotation services, and that's on top of the Fortnite checker tools that can cost $2,000 per month for a licence. It's an expensive but often lucrative profession, with some criminals making $25,000 per week.
A shop selling stolen Fortnite accounts
The stolen accounts are sold in batches on services such as Telegram and Discord. These are bought by owners of disreputable websites, who sell them on to consumers. Troia said one seller makes $20,000 per day selling Fortnite accounts.
Almost three-quarters of the market's $1 billion sales come from four titles: Fortnite, Roblox, RuneScape, and Minecraft, all of which have seen their player numbers surge during the lockdown.