Over the past two weeks, people have been flocking to Red Dead Redemption 2 to try the new Naturalist update. While some have been left to study the animals in peace, others have fallen prey to the hackers who never left. One modder, in particular, has taken to posing as streamers in a bid to get them banned.
Things began to escalate on Friday, July 31, when streamer HazardousHDTV was trying out the new update with his community. He soon bumped into a modder who pulled him out of a free mode event and into their lobby, spawned others on top of him, and then killed everyone by blowing them up. Being turned into a human dynamite stick isn’t unusual for Red Dead Online, Hazardous tells me, so he left the lobby and took a few minutes to regroup. A few minutes later, he returned and joined a new lobby only to be met with the same old chaos with a new twist.
“This cheater was spoofing my name, disguising themself as me, and the game was notifying every other player that I was the one killing them,” Hazardous says. “My hostility rose in-game, and the game was giving me XP for player kills. I quickly Alt-F4ed and ended my stream.”
While Hazardous ended his night there, the modder did not. Under the guise of another Red Dead Online content creator, they pursued a streamer called SwolTV.
“About 40 minutes into my stream the hacker began attacking me using the name ThatDevilJames,” Swol tells me. “He had cloned James’s social club name and was using that in the lobby. After a while, the hacker began spawning the entire lobby on top of me and then blowing everyone up. It showed that I was the one killing everyone, and they were blaming me for the hacks.”
Changing your display name in Red Dead Online and beyond has been possible for a while. One former GTA Online modder I spoke to previously said it was a trick as “old as [their] granny”. While you can see through it by viewing the person’s profile, few go to the trouble to check, and simply cast blame on whoever Red Dead Online says killed them.
Following his chat telling him that the identity thief was the same one who targeted Hazardous and others, Swol tells me that he swapped from PC to PlayStation to continue his stream in peace after an hour of targeted harassment. The modder could no longer join his lobby – but he still wasn’t safe.
“Within a few minutes of playing on PS4, I noticed the bitrate of my stream software kept dropping to zero,” he says. “The hacker was able to obtain my IP address, and since he couldn’t attack me anymore on Red Dead Online, he began attacking my internet, resulting in several disconnects from Twitch before ultimately my bitrate never recovered and I could no longer connect at all. My usual four-hour stream was cut short by an hour and a half.”
So how is the modder able to freely jump into streamers’ lobbies and attack their internet after they leave? Hazardous tells me that all it takes is a paid mod menu. Using one of these, modders can invade your lobby or force you to join them. They can also allegedly see your IP, ISP, zip code, country, region, and more. Hazardous then sent me a link to a video from DarkViperAU, which goes into more depth about the topic as it pertains to GTA Online.
“They can so easily obtain your sensitive account and personal information because of huge flaws in Rockstar Games’ security systems for its online products,” Hazardous explains. “Because of my account information and personal IP being compromised, I have been unable to do my work, and needed to get an entirely new modem to obtain a different IP to escape this.”
After speaking to Hazardous and Swol, I looked through YouTube and found various Red Dead Online mod menu videos that show modders looking at the information Hazardous describes or framing players for something they didn’t do. Not only does people’s personal information appear available to cheaters, but it’s now on show in these videos for everyone to see. I reached out to Rockstar for comment about players’ IP and real-life details being vulnerable, but have yet to hear back as of writing.
Since that Friday, July 31, both streamers tell me the harassment hasn’t let up. While Swol remains on PS4 and Hazardous remains off-air, both have either been impersonated or have had their internet ceaselessly attacked.
“On Friday [July 31] I was lucky enough not to have that happen, but since Saturday I have been getting DDoSed numerous times every single day,” Hazardous says. “I have not been able to make content for my YouTube or stream on Twitch because my internet is constantly offline.”
Swol tells me that he managed to make it a few days without being hit offline or impersonated. But that would change when he went live on Tuesday, August 4.
“A bunch of streamers were entering my chat while I was live to ask why I was griefing them and shouting out my channel,” Swol says. “I had no idea what they were talking about, and I showed them that I wasn’t even on the PC. They said that someone was blowing up the entire lobby on PC, targeting streamers who were live, and shouting out my twitch channel – SwolTV.”
Just a heads up, the same hacker that griefed me off of #reddeadonline PC, is now using my name in lobbies while griefing other streamers and shouting out my channel. I am in NO WAY affiliated with this person. I am back on PS4 and will continue to be until this is resolved pic.twitter.com/ou2TCheasE
— 🦍𝗦𝗪𝗢𝗟ᵀⱽ (@TRUESWOLDIER) August 5, 2020
Hazardous and Swol aren’t the only streamers affected, either. Someone collected numerous clips of griefers goading other content creators and posted it to Reddit (above). Living through that ordeal would be intrusive and annoying for anyone, but, as Swol and Hazardous explain, it’s also affecting these content creators’ ability to work.
“This isn’t just a game – to a streamer, this is our livelihood,” Swol says. “Their actions are causing a loss in our real-life income.”
Hazardous adds: “It has interrupted any game time that I have. But more importantly, it has stopped me from doing my jobs of making YouTube videos and live streaming. Because of the DDoS attacks, easily done by a user who can obtain your IP address from the game, my internet has been offline more than it has been online since Friday, August 7. It’s had a huge impact on my livelihood, my businesses, and my ability to deliver the content my community has come to expect from me and enjoys.”
While this particular modder has become more visible since going after streamers over the past two weeks, Hazardous tells me they’ve been griefing other Red Dead Online players for much longer.
“The issue with this cheater did not start with us and certainly has not ended with us,” Hazardous explains. “There are videos on YouTube and Reddit of this cheater dating back to March, with players sending tweets and Discord messages of hackers to me, all of which turned out to be this same individual.”
This isn’t the first time Red Dead Online hackers have put unsuspecting players at the risk of suspension. Earlier this year modders coaxed people into opening hacked treasure chests to get them banned.
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To alleviate the risk of being banned, players are once again calling upon Rockstar to introduce private lobbies so they’ll be safer while playing Red Dead Online, a suggestion with which Hazardous agrees. “That may be the only solution for players if they wish to be left alone,” he says.
While Rockstar has yet to confirm if private lobbies are planned, parent company Take-Two has said there will be another Red Dead Online update before the end of the fiscal year. It’s currently unknown what community-requested fixes it’ll bring, but calls for private lobbies are only getting louder.