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Chinese authorities have arrested 15 people on suspicion of developing, selling or promoting game-cheating apps for the PUBG (PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds) game.

Authorities said some of these apps were laced with the Huigezi malware, a backdoor trojan popular found prevalently in China.

"15 major suspects including “OMG”, “FL”, “火狐”, “须弥” and “炎黄” were arrested for developing hack programs, hosting marketplaces for hack programs, and brokering transactions," Chinese authorities said.

The arrests took place last week, on April 25, and suspects received fines that totaled 30 million Chinese Yuan (around $5.1 million).

Tencent, PUBG's Chinese reseller, is behind the crackdown

The crackdown on PUBG game cheats was announced last week on PUBG's official Steam page by a spokesperson for PUBG Corporation, the subsidiary of South Korean game maker Bluehole.

The arrests aren't surprising for gaming fans. PUBG is by far one of the most popular online games at the moment. Chinese online gaming giant has localized and is in charge of selling PUBG on the Chinese market.

Earlier this year, the company had worked with Chinese police to arrest 120 suspects on accusations of creating cheating software for Tencent-marketed games.

Gaming companies often go to great lengths to protect their software and community against cheaters and makers of cheat software.

One of the most extreme examples is the recent incident when makers of Guild Wars 2 went as far as to embed the equivalent of a spyware app inside a game update. This updated game scanned a user's local computer without his consent with the purpose of discovering if the user was running processes associated with known game hacks. Game makers used the results of these scans to ban cheaters.

Game cheats are a common source of malware

But the biggest danger to using game cheats remains malware. It's been known for years that game hacks and cheating software harbor a lot of today's malware. According to a Kaspersky report from 2016, and one from 2018, most of it is aimed at Steam users, and the malware is coded to steal Steam login credentials —hence the commonly used term of "steam stealers" to describe these class of malware.

But game hacks have also been used to deliver cryptocurrency miners, remote access trojans, and various other threats.

"The longstanding rumor that hacking/cheating programs extract information from users’ PCs has been confirmed to be true," the PUBG spokesperson said yesterday. "Using illegal programs not only disrupts others, but can end up with you handing over your personal information."

Microsoft too has taken a stand against hackers, but not game cheat makers. Instead, the company filed a lawsuit against a Chinese company that was hacking into users' Xbox accounts and illegally purchasing games with users' currency.

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