Amazon’s Twitch Hack Shows Top Gamers Rake In Six-Figure Payouts
An anonymous hacker attacked Amazon.com Inc.’s video game streaming platform Twitch and earlier today leaked a trove of critical data including Twitch’s source code and a spreadsheet detailing earnings for the platform’s top gamers. Amazon’s Twitch Hack Shows Top Gamers Rake In Six-Figure Payouts
Leaks on the social media platform 4Chan, popular among conspiracy theorists and gamers, claim to include the entirety of the platform’s Twitch.tv streaming history and an Amazon Game Studios product, still under development, designed to challenge Valve Corp.’s dominant Steam storefront. Bloomberg has reported previously on Amazon’s plans for a digital game store.
The leak also offers a glimpse into the wealth generated in the gaming sub-industry. A document listing Twitch’s top earners shows gross earnings since 2019 reached $9.6 million for the platform’s top account, “CriticalRole.”
The account, a set of voice actors, according to their Twitch page, generated an average of $370,000 a year, according to the document. The list points to 13 accounts that have made more than $108,000 a year and at least 80 who’ve collected more than $1 million since 2019.
Twitch confirmed the breach and said it would provide updates when it has more information.
The hacker said the purpose of the leak was to “foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space,” which he described as a “disgusting toxic cesspool,” according to the 4Chan post reviewed by Bloomberg News.
Users on the thread applauded the hack for exposing the pay of top earners, who were accused of attempting to keep their profits secret.
The leak even spawned a site — TwitchEarnings.com — that promises to let users sift through the stolen payments data or search for many of the thousands of Twitch handles by name.
“Anytime source code gets leaked it’s not good and potentially disastrous,” said Ekram Ahmed, a spokesperson at Check Point Software Technologies, a cybersecurity firm.
“It opens a gigantic door for evildoers to find cracks in the system, lace malware and potentially steal sensitive information. I strongly recommend all Twitch users to exercise caution in the near-term ahead as cyber attacks are on the rise.”
Twitch earned its share of scrutiny in September over the platform’s mishandling of so-called hate raids. These occur attackers or bots bombard an active livestream with messages in the victim’s chat box, typically homophobic, racist or sexist content. Users boycotted the platform on Sept. 1 for Twitch’s lack of response to these hate raids.
Seattle-based Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014. Since then, it has tried to combine it with other Prime services, like Amazon Music and Prime Gaming, once called Twitch Prime.
Twitch is the leading broadcaster of video gameplay, a livestreaming platform that attracts millions of viewers. The company offers streamers a share of advertising revenue, and occasionally finds itself in bidding wars with rivals like Google’s YouTube for the exclusive services of closely watched streamers.
“With 15 million daily users, Twitch holds significant amounts of data, much of which contains personal information about its customers,” said Danny Lopez, chief executive officer of Glasswall Solutions, a cybersecurity firm, in a statement.
“It is essential that a proactive approach is taken to cybersecurity in order to protect such information. Once hackers have access to systems, there is little else that can be done.”
Twitch Data Leak Shows Some Streamers Make Hundreds of Thousands Per Month
Streamer in Chicago says income varies month to month at the Amazon unit and that the leaked information isn’t a full picture.
Leaked data this week from the streaming platform Twitch Interactive revealed that some people can make six-figure monthly incomes from playing videogames in front of a live online audience.
A user of the online chat forum 4chan claimed to have access to the payout information, and several people who called themselves Twitch streamers said many of the figures were consistent with what they had earned.
Others said the figures didn’t paint a full picture of their earnings, in part because they didn’t appear to take into account what they make when streaming as part of a group or from third parties.
Twitch broadcasters’ earnings and other company information that was claimed to have been accessed were made public Wednesday. The 4chan user posted the information there to hurt the Amazon.com Inc. unit’s business, the user wrote.
Twitch confirmed a data leak but declined to comment on what information was accessed.
Such data hasn’t been disclosed by Twitch, which was founded in 2011 and acquired by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million in cash. Though the platform is best known for its videogame streamers, many others broadcast themselves playing tabletop games and music, making crafts, exercising and more.
One of its most popular categories is called Just Chatting, where streamers discuss all sorts of topics.
Last month, people spent 1.7 billion hours watching Twitch, which is up more than 20% from a year earlier, according to StreamElements, a provider of tools and services for content creators.
The leak announced on 4chan identifies streamers’ monthly revenue-sharing payments from Twitch since August 2019. Last month alone, a videogame streamer in Canada earned approximately $705,000 from the platform, while a group of Dungeons & Dragons players brought in roughly $311,000.
Twitch streamers typically generate revenue from paid subscriptions to their channels and through the platform’s ad-sharing program, which requires certain viewer metrics. For the most popular streamers, Twitch may cut special deals to prevent them from streaming on competing services.
Separately, some Twitch streamers earn income from viewer tips through third-party services as well as sponsorship agreements with brands such as State Farm Insurance.
And large videogame publishers, including Electronic Arts Inc. and Activision Blizzard Inc., pay popular Twitch streamers tens of thousands of dollars apiece to play their latest releases on launch day.
Tanya DePass, a 48-year-old Twitch streamer in Chicago who is sponsored by videogame-accessories maker Logitech G, said the data leak is “wildly inaccurate” for those reasons.
Further, she said her Twitch earnings vary greatly from month to month. In June 2020, her channel blew up in popularity, which resulted in her receiving her biggest paycheck ever from Twitch a month later.
Ms. DePass, who is Black, attributed the jump to a sudden interest among viewers in Black streamers in response to the murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose 2020 death in police custody was captured on video that went viral. “Anger over George Floyd’s murder mobilized folks to realize we exist,” she said.
Ms. DePass streams herself playing videogames and tabletop games for 10 to 25 hours a week under the name Cypheroftyr. She said she was frustrated by the leak because she thinks it gives people the false impression that streaming is an easy way to make lots of money.
In reality, she said it takes a lot of work to promote her channel, keep viewers constantly engaged and handle administrative tasks. Ms. DePass also has had to grapple with racist and sexist taunts. “It’s just exhausting,” she said.
The 4chan user who allegedly posted the Twitch data labeled it “part one,” suggesting there might be more to come.
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