'Call of Duty' players beware: Malware could be hiding in your cheats

Activision researchers found a 'dropper' application in popular cheats that allow malware to be installed remotely onto a player's computer.

You might want to think twice before downloading the latest Call of Duty: Warzone cheats. Activision, the game’s publisher, released a report this week detailing malware that’s been found lurking behind a cheat advertised on popular forums.

Downloading the cheat triggered the installation of a malicious dropper application — also known as a remote access trojan (RAT) — which could then be used to install additional malicious software on the victim’s computer in the future. It seems the creator of the hack has been pushing it as a “newbie-friendly” method of distributing a RAT since at least March 2020.

In order for players to execute gaming cheats, they’re often asked to disable malware protection and provide the download with high-level system access. This makes them the perfect distribution method for malware. Players would simply assume the cheat needs backdoor access to work, thereby giving the malware an opening in which to infect the computer system.

Activision’s research here is limited to just one piece of malware, but it’s an important PSA for PC gamers writ large: your cheating could very well open you up to viruses and malware.

By no means a small operation — This dropper, which goes by the name “Cod Dropper v0.1,” has mostly been spread through hacking forums. Once it’s been installed on a user’s system, the dropper can then inject all manner of other software — which means this hack can then be used to carry out all kinds of malicious attacks. At least some of the Warzone dropper’s spread seems to be in an effort to use gamers’ GPUs to mine cryptocurrency without their consent.

Activision’s researchers say this hack spread effortlessly through various corners of the internet, some hidden and others more mainstream. One YouTube video promising an “undetected cheat” for Warzone included instructions on how to disable your antivirus before running the cheat. It offered a “private” version of the cheat for $10 in bitcoin.


Meanwhile, detailed instructions on how to set up the RAT to distribute your choice of malicious software were posted to a popular hacking forum. That thread received more than 10,000 views since it was posted last March, Activision says. Another post containing the same hack was included in a December 2020 post aimed at “noobies looking to make some easy money.”

Be careful out there — Activision doesn’t provide any solutions for players who have already found themselves subject to the CoD Dropper. The developer is pretty notorious for banning players who insist on cheating — Activision isn’t looking to provide sympathy to players who find themselves on the wrong end of those cheats.

Instead, the company concludes its report with a warning: your computer has protective systems in place for a reason, and disabling them is always going to be risky. For some people, the promise of customization or gaining advantages is worth that risk. Just don’t go crying to Activision when your gaming rig is turned into a power-hungry bitcoin-mining machine. They warned you.