Hack of streaming service Twitch reveals payment info of top users

·3 min read
Game enthusiasts watched one trillion minutes of content on Twitch last year. (Mike Blake/Reuters - image credit)
Game enthusiasts watched one trillion minutes of content on Twitch last year. (Mike Blake/Reuters - image credit)

Live streaming video service Twitch has been hacked in a breach that has exposed the financial information of some of the people who use it.

The company is a live video service where people can share streams of the video games they are playing, usually with tips and commentary. The site has exploded in popularity in lockstep with the rise of esports where spectators watch professional gamers play. Founded in 2011, it was bought by Amazon in 2014 for almost $1 billion US.

At any given moment, more than 2.5 million people are watching videos on Twitch. Last year, they collectively watched one trillion minutes worth of video.

An anonymous poster on the 4chan messaging board released a massive trove of data the poster claimed was the source code for Twitch on Tuesday evening, a data dump that included detailed information about payment details of its most-watched gamers and streamers.

According to gaming news site Video Games Chronicle, which first reported the breach, the user released the information to "foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space" because "their community is a disgusting toxic cesspool."

On Wednesday morning, Twitch confirmed that it had been hacked.

"At this time, we have no indication that login credentials have been exposed, we are continuing to investigate," the company said, adding that credit card infomation of members could not have been accessed either, since the company doesn't store that data in full.

 Gabby Jones/Bloomberg
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

Millions of dollars

Leaked data reveals that top streamers take in tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from the service. Screenshots suggest that the top content producers on the platform make millions of dollars from it.

One Canadian who goes by the handle nl_kripp — real name Octavian Morosan — was outed as one of the top streamers. Screenshots suggest the Toronto-based gamer earned $43,077 from his Twitch stream last month.

Although he said he could not confirm that number specifically, he said it is a "fairly decent estimate" of what Twitch brings in. He noted that figure would not include other revenue sources for elite gamers, including YouTube, and sponsorships.

"In some cases [Twitch is] the biggest slice of what they earn, in some cases it isn't," he said. Top streamers sell subscriptions for between $5 and $25 a month, and some users have in excess of 30,000 subscribers, Morosan said.

"You can earn a lot of money in this domain."

Morosan said he heard of the leak when he finished his daily stream at about 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

"At this stage I don't know any more than the public knows," he said. "I'm sure things will come out on how this happened … I hope at the end of the day things get back to normal."

Victims of data breaches often feel exposed when made aware of an attack, but as someone who broadcasts every detail of his life to the world, for up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, Morosan says he doesn't feel overly exposed.

"It's not the line of work where you can expect every level of privacy," he said.

Representatives of another top streamer echoed that view. Félix Lengyel, who goes by name xQcOW on the platform, has reportedly earned $8.4 million since 2019, including more than $750,000 last month alone. His agent, Ryan Morrison with Los Angeles based Evolve, told CBC News in an emailed statement that while he was unable to despite the specifics of his client's finances, "most people who were paying attention to the space are not surprised by any numbers leaked today."

"It shows the potential opportunity for streamers and that there really isn't a ceiling for what you can do nowadays as a content creator," Morrison said. "It's unfortunate this leak happened, but we operate under the understanding that once something is sent, entered or shared online, it will eventually be leaked. That's the internet we live with."

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