It appears that gamers are in for yet another Christmas Day disappointment, as the Steam digital store has suffered an apparent attack or is having serious internal problems. While Valve had first reported that users’ data was at risk and action was needed, the Steam owner has since decided to go one step further, taking the service completely offline.
According to numerous accounts, the main problem with Steam seems to involve the sharing of personal data between unrelated accounts. For example, if player A logged into their Steam account and looked at their details they might actually see player B’s information. Moreover, if someone attempted to make a purchase, they might do so using someone else’s credit card or PayPal account.
Clearly this is a major security problem for Valve and Steam, and it’s no surprise that they took the service online. For the time being and to protect personal information, Valve recommends unlinking any PayPal accounts, but they ask that players do so from the PayPal site not Steam.
While most gamers were all but expecting another attack on the PSN and Xbox Live services this Christmas – especially after several hacker groups made threats – it’s actually quite surprising to see Steam go down like this. That isn’t to say Steam is impenetrable, but of the three major online services it has always been the most reliable.
The Steam downtime couldn’t come at a worse time either, as many gamers are likely unwrapping Steam gift cards and hoping to redeem them during the Winter Sale. The good news, though, is that the Steam Winter Sale is a little different there, and is not time dependent. Rather, all the discounts are applied at the beginning of the sale and will run until it finishes. That means no Flash Sales or Daily Deals, just discounts throughout the entire run.
So, even if you might feel like you are missing out, you’re not. More importantly, Valve wants to get this fixed before any account info gets misused or someone gets wrongly charged.
The bigger question, though, is whether or not the security issues are part of an attack or if something wonky happened to Steam. In most cases, when there is an attack the service simply goes down and gamers lose access to online functionality like updates and multiplayer. But this situation is a little different, and potentially a lot more serious considering private information is being shared between users. Valve was smart to take the service down and hopefully they can get things up and running sooner rather than later.