Zynga Responds to Mafia Wars Drone Scare

The keystroke-capturing computer virus that infected the networks used to pilot U.S. Air Force drones had nothing to do with Mafia Wars despite early reports to the contrary, Zynga tells Kotaku.

Earlier this week the Associated Press reported that the credential stealing virus that infected those Remotely Piloted Aircraft operations computers was one routinely used to "steal log-in and password data from people who gamble or play games like Mafia Wars online."

Not exactly true, says Zynga.

"We have no indications that suggest Zynga's Mafia Wars was connected with the malware that infected the Pentagon's drone program," Nils Puhlmann, Zynga's Chief Security Officer, said. "We actively take steps to maintain and protect the trust of our customers, including educating our players about the risks associated with visiting untrusted sites and downloading untrusted applications. Both of those actions can increase the risk of getting infected with malware."

The malware detected on the systems did not affect those drones, Colonel Kathleen Cook, spokesperson for Air Force Space Command, said earlier this week in a prepared statement.

On Sept. 15, 24th Air Force detected malware on a portable hard drive used for transferring information between computers. After notifying Creech Air Force Base, the malware was isolated. The Air Force then began a forensic process to track the origin of the malware and clean the infected systems.

The malware was only found on a stand-alone support Windows-based support network and was considered more of a nuisance then a threat, Cook said.

"It's standard policy not to discuss the operational status of our forces," said Cook. "However, we felt it important to declassify portions of the information associated with this event to ensure the public understands that the detected and quarantined virus posed no threat to our operational mission and that control of our remotely piloted aircraft was never in question.

"We continue to strengthen our cyber defenses, using the latest anti-virus software and other methods to protect Air Force resources and assure our ability to execute Air Force missions. Continued education and training of all users will also help reduce the threat of malware to Department of Defense systems."

It's likely that the malware was something used to attack popular social networking sites that also happen to have games like Mafia Wars on them. Those sites could include Facebook and Yahoo.


You can contact Brian Crecente, the author of this post, at brian@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.