Fortnite is among a group of games that see thousands of hacked accounts sold online every day in a black market that generates $1 billion USD ($1.31 billion CAD) annually.
According to a report from Night Lion Security (via Bloomberg), a company that helps businesses identify vulnerabilities, criminals use automated tools to check up to 500 accounts per second to discover if stolen login credentials from recent data breaches can unlock any Fortnite accounts.
Some accounts have valuable skins — digital cosmetics that players can apply to their in-game character. Since some skins are rare and only available for a limited time, accounts with those skins can sell for thousands of dollars. The average accounts sells for $200 to $250 USD (about $262 to $328 CAD).
Fortnite has grown into a massively popular game since launching in 2017, with more than 350 million registered players. The game’s reach comes from its low barrier to entry — it’s free to play and available on almost every device, from smartphones to game consoles to PCs. Smartphone availability, of course, has decreased following Fortnite-maker Epic Games’ legal battles with both Apple and Google.
Bloomberg notes that Epic prohibits the sale of accounts, although clearly many don’t heed the company’s rules. The company also uses technology such as captcha, IP reputation and machine learning to “identify threats in seconds,” the company told Bloomberg. Epic also proactively blocks login attempts and works to secure any compromised accounts it identifies.
Despite those efforts, Night Lion found illegal distributors and online stores selling game accounts. Distributors market batches of thousands of accounts on services like Telegram and Discord and website owners buy accounts to sell to customers, who can find them by simply searching something like ‘Fortnite accounts for sale.’ Night Lion found one seller that sells $20,000 USD (roughly $26,229 CAD) in Fortnite accounts every day.
However, Fortnite isn’t the only game with accounts selling on this black market. Night Lion’s report identified Roblox, RuneScape and Minecraft as games that appear more profitable than Fortnite. All four games saw a boost thanks to pandemic-related lockdowns, which have lead to more people playing games.
Night Lion shared its report with the FBI, including a list of some websites peddling game accounts.