High-rolling Grand Theft Auto Online players have been feeling nervous lately.
As is already well known, two weeks ago, several prominent GTA Online tools used for hacking were shut down after their creators' received cease-and-desist letters from the game's publisher Take-Two.
Less publicized is how the security crackdown has extended to the players who use those hacks. At places where GTA cheaters congregate around the internet, players are chattering about confiscated funds and permanent bans.
Specifically, players who use hacks to hook themselves up with "stealth money" are being hit with the ban-hammer.
A wide array of get-rich-quick schemes exist in the seedy world of GTA Online cheats. These range from "Ped Drops" hacks, which trigger an endless rain of dead bodies with pockets lined with cash, to "money drops," where clients meet money dealers in game lobbies for hook-ups, typically pre-arranged in text messages or on Skype. But stealth money is the quickest and trendiest way to smuggle in in-game currency on the sly.
In GTA Online lingo, "stealth money" is simply ordinary game money. The difference is in how it's obtained: stealthily. Players buy and download a hack from a hack site and "inject" the hack into the game's code by running the executable. If all goes well, players are given access to a special godlike cheat menu. Among the many cheats is stealth money. At any time during the game, simply click the option and watch the money counter tick upward. It's like giving yourself a bogus direct deposit. Players can inherit billions of dollars at once, but generally tend to accumulate funds gradually, say 5 million per hour, in hopes of avoiding detection.
Because of the convenience of it, stealth money is a lucrative hack. The game's developer Rockstar charges 20 real-life bucks for $1.25 million in in-game currency. A cheater can obtain many times this amount at the click of a button.
Naturally, it's in Rockstar's best interest to defend its game against stealth money, and lately seem to be going after the hack specifically. According to posts on cheating forum Unknown Cheats, Rockstar has been removing some stealth money out of cheaters' accounts, while leaving alone money obtained through other cheat methods.
When I asked Rockstar if it was currently beefing up security measures to cut out stealth money, it pointed me to its support page which says Rockstar "routinely perform security sweeps for any illegitimately gained GTA$."
Of course, security sweeps are standard procedure. Last year, Rockstar made headlines for removing trillions in bogus currency from the game's economy.
Cheaters are apparently incorrigible. Small time cash droppers who undercut Rockstar's in-game currency rates are still out there slinging. And already a few stealth money hacks are springing up to replace those that elude monitoring.