Christmas glitch allowed Steam users to see others' personal info

Valve's gaming platform experienced connectivity issues along with a brief privacy breach in the midst of the digital storefront's winter sale.

Mike Sorrentino Senior Editor
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
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Mike Sorrentino
2 min read

Some gamers were "Steam"-ing on Christmas as Valve's popular digital gaming store was afflicted with server and privacy problems.

The glitches with the Steam service, including users being able to see others' personal information as well as the store itself going offline, were the result of a technical error that has since been fixed, a Valve representative said in a statement Friday.


Valve's Steam store went offline on Christmas as it was allowing some users to see pages meant for other users.


"Steam is back up and running without any known issues," the statement reads. "As a result of a configuration change earlier today, a caching issue allowed some users to randomly see pages generated for other users for a period of less than an hour. This issue has since been resolved. We believe no unauthorized actions were allowed on accounts beyond the viewing of cached page information and no additional action is required by users."

During that one-hour window, CNET's sister site GameSpot noticed users were able to see others' account information, including their email address, Steam Wallet money and purchase history. Steam's own security tools, Steam Guard and Steam Mobile Authenticator, did not appear to help prevent the potential reveal.

Valve's Steam marketplace and gaming platform have a massive reach, with the company's website reporting as many as 10.6 million concurrent users accessed the service on Christmas Day. In February, the company announced having over 125 million active users who are able to use the service to purchase and download games as well as make use of its social features, reported VG247. The platform is available on Windows, Mac and Linux machines. And last fall Valve launched a line of Steam Machine boxes dedicated to the platform.

Despite the announced resolution to Friday's problems, on Saturday morning CNET noticed various sections of both the Steam store and Valve's company website acting erratically, often timing out while loading content. The issues appeared to have been resolved by the afternoon.

The problems come in the midst of Steam's annual winter sale, during which the digital store slashes prices on thousands of games during the holidays. The current sale is running through January 4.

Some users on Friday took to Twitter, initially concerned the Steam site had been hacked and then frustrated by how long it took for the company to respond. "Took @steam_games an hour to get their store offline after this massive breach. Thanks Valve, I wanted new passwords for xmas anyway," said Twitter user David Jones. Others, however, tweeted how they planned to spend (and not spend) their time while waiting for the service to return.

And some game developers offered their own good and bad news on how the temporary outage affected them, including Double Fine and Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell.