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Hacker reportedly holding Xbox source code for millions

We're undoubtedly living in strange times at the moment. With many staying home, maintaining distance from one another, it's not immediately apparent when life will get back to normal. That said, video games are still very much around, and the games industry is still managing to produce some very weird stories.

For instance — did you know a hacker somehow got their hands on source code for the Xbox Series X? Microsoft has been incredibly transparent about its upcoming next-gen console. We highly doubt, however, the company wants the entire world knowing how the Series X graphics work. Yet that's the danger currently faced thanks to someone who is now holding details about the Series X ransom for a whole lot of money.

AMD issued a statement on the breach yesterday.

"In December 2019, we were contacted by someone who claimed to have test files related to a subset of our current and future graphics products, some of which were recently posted online, but have since been taken down," AMD said.

One of those "future graphics products," as it turns out, was the one found inside Microsoft's upcoming Xbox Series X. The console is set to arrive sometime during the holiday season this year — barring any delays, of course.

As far as the code is concerned, AMD believes "the stolen graphics IP is not core to the competitiveness or security of [its] graphics products." That said, the company is "working closely with law enforcement officials" to get to the bottom of how this information was accessed.

The hacker, according to Torrentfreak, wants to sell the source code, which they believe is worth $100 million. If no buyer comes forward, the hacker has threatened to release the code in its entirety. Some of this highly sensitive information was uploaded to Github, a site where developers can store and collaborate on programming projects. AMD did manage to get those repositories shut down, at least, though the company could find itself in a bind if the hacker decides to spread the code through other means.

The entire episode is a little less important due to the global health crisis currently taking place. We imagine law enforcement has its hands pretty full at the moment. It is still incredibly embarrassing for AMD, however, and can't be the kind of press Microsoft wants for the Xbox Series X. Microsoft is hopeful its next console can push Sony off the top of console mountain. If more people are talking about a Series X hack than the system itself, that's not going to make the folks in Redmond very happy.

The good news is, there's probably not a lot someone can do with the source code for the Series X graphics. While the tech does seem to be proprietary, which makes it valuable nonetheless, the odds are good it's highly customized for the specific Zen 2 architecture powering Microsoft's new machine. It's not as though someone could go and build their own Xbox Series X using that information. It's not even likely the PlayStation 5 — which also uses the Zen 2 architecture — could make much use of the code. Sony is going its own way with that system, prioritizing different capabilities while adding some customization of its own.

And if there's another silver lining to be taken away from all of this, it's that people really seem to be starving for a new console generation. Someone cared enough — or at least thought others cared enough — to steal some of AMDs intellectual property related to the Series X. And while money was the likely motivator for the theft itself, the idea that AMD might pony up $100 million to keep the code from going public speaks to how competitive the console battle is expected to be.

Chances are, this person is eventually caught and arrested before AMD drops a cent. The source code for the Series X graphics may or may not get out. If it does, that'll be a black eye for AMD, and perhaps for Microsoft, too. It probably won't do much to affect the upcoming competition between the Series X and PlayStation 5, though.

The holiday season is still a long way off, and there are plenty of uncertain days ahead. While Microsoft and Sony are still talking like we'll have console launches later this year, it's honestly tough to say that's a guarantee at the moment. Maybe we'll see these systems arrive when they're supposed to. Maybe they'll be pushed back into 2021. Any major shifts in strategy from either company will likely be due to the coronavirus, however — not because of any leaked code.