Nov. 10, 2011 at 7:32 PM ET
Valve Corporation has become the latest game company to fall victim to a major hacking intrusion that has left gamers' personal information and potentially even credit card numbers exposed.
In a letter sent to users Thursday, Valve founder Gabe Newell said that, on Sunday, the company discovered that the community forums for its online gaming and distribution service — Steam — had been defaced. But Newell said that further investigation has now revealed that the intrusion "goes beyond the Steam forums" and into a Steam database filled with gamers' personal information.
The popular Steam service, which distributes and manages over 1,800 games, has more than 35 million users across 237 countries.
Though Newell did not say how many users may have been affected, he wrote:
This database contained information including user names, hashed and salted passwords, game purchases, email addresses, billing addresses and encrypted credit card information. We do not have evidence that encrypted credit card numbers or personally identifying information were taken by the intruders, or that the protection on credit card numbers or passwords was cracked. We are still investigating.
Newell told users that Valve — the company behind hit gaming franchises such as "Portal" and "Half-Life" — doesn't currently have any evidence of any credit card misuse, but he warned "you should watch your credit card activity and statements closely."
He went on to say that a few forum accounts have been compromised. Because of that, all forum users will be required to change their passwords.
Steam users first noticed something was awry on Sunday when promotional posts from a site called Fkn0wned.com, began appearing in the community forums.
They read: "Ever wanted to dominate the servers you play on with guaranteed results, but you were too afraid to cheat because of ban risks? Visit Fkn0wned.com. It's safe, secure and undetected. Along with hacks, we've also got some general discussion sections, hacking tutorials and tools, porn, free giveaways and much more."
But as word of the forum defacement spread, the Fkn0wned founder posted the following message on his site denying any responsibility:
I didn't authorize anyone to do what happened so Fkn0wned shouldn't be held responsible. If a member performs illegal actions in our name, there's not much we can do about that other than to ask that member to stop. If a rival site is deliberately trying to bring us down by placing the attention of Valve's legal department on us, there's not much we can do about that either. It's how this scene works and I'll have to accept that.
Valve has closed the Steam forums for the time being though Newell promised to reopen them "as soon as we can."
"I am truly sorry this happened," he added. "And I apologize for the inconvenience."
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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+. And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.