A pro-Trump hacker is unlikely to face charges after attacking nearly five million users on the popular game Among Us on Saturday, Oct. 24.
Many users opted to play private games with friends that day instead, after thousands of public servers were hacked. Users experienced black screens and threat spams throughout the online chats. Many of those messages promoted U.S. President Donald Trump and Eris Loris, the mastermind YouTuber behind the large-scale hack. InnerSloth, the Among Us developers, scrambled to control the attack.
“We will be pushing out an emergency server update so people who are in game will get kicked from games. Please play private games or with people that you trust!!! Bare [sic] with us!!” InnerSloth said in a Twitter statement.
Natalie Brennan, of Toronto, was one of the people who chose to play the game on a private server that day.
“Every game had messages saying ‘Subscribe here’…or ‘Vote Trump 2020’ all through the chat,” Brennan said.
Though the hacker known as Eris Loris boasted of their ability to hack a user’s device, Brennen didn’t see the hack as a real threat and described it as more of a nuisance.
Matthew Johnson, the director of education at MediaSmarts, said that hacks affect young people and the overall health of online communities.
“As youth are forming opinions and they experience this kind of dialogue, it affects their world view because they can’t put the hate and disinformation into context,” Johnson said in an interview on Wednesday. MediaSmarts is an organization located in Ontario that teaches online safety and media literacy.
Though the game’s demographic is largely made up of players who are ineligible to vote, Johnson believes that this hack wasn’t intended to directly affect them. This cyber-hack was likely designed to make news after U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ successful live stream three days prior.
“Though the hack posed a security risk, it wouldn’t have made news [if it had affected an older demographic] because it’s not as unusual,” Johnson said.
Brennen has noticed an increase in political rhetoric when playing online games. She would like to see the developers get rid of the politics and hackers for good by implementing some form of online censorship.
Cyber bullying: researcher
One Ontario researcher who is an expert in information security, Khalil El-Khatib, sees the hack as a form of spam.
El-Khatib, a professor at Ontario Tech, said he wasn’t sure if this particular instance posed a threat to users’ devices, though he said it is an example of cyber-bullying.
“This platform acted as a venue for the hacker to present their message,” El-Khatib said. The message, in this case, was to vote Trump 2020.
Though hacking is a criminal offence in Canada, the perpetrator is unlikely to be charged because of the lengthy process that occurs when attempting to attribute a hacker to a cyber offence, he explained.
The Toronto police’s Coordinated Cyber Centre did not respond to a request for an interview on this case, however it is likely the offence was committed outside Canadian jurisdiction. For Eris Loris to be charged, the offence needed to be considered a crime in the jurisdiction in which it was committed, as well as the jurisdiction seeking to extradite the hacker. Unless both jurisdictions pursue legal action, it is unlikely they will be charged.
Design against hacks
Johnson said that developers should be dealing with cyber hacking and harassment at the design stage, to avoid a “series of band-aid fixes.”
“When we look at people developing digital media, they don’t actually look at the ecosystems that they are building and tend to focus on immediate results, ” Johnson said.
InnerSloth recently cancelled Among Us 2, that was supposed to come out August 2021, to deal with the hacking and verbal toxicity that exists in Version 1.