In our first article on The Last of Us Part II leaks, we said it was an individual not associated with Naughty Dog or Sony Interactive Entertainment. Now with tweets from journalist Jason Schreier, who formerly worked at Kotaku for eight years and now is heading to Bloomberg News, and from an anonymous game developer Pixelbutts, we know that the people responsible were a group of hackers.
Schreier spoke to two anonymous people who have behind the scenes knowledge of what happened along with several employees at Naughty Dog; he confirmed that hackers found a weak spot in the studio’s security. It was through an older game from the developer which granted access to the servers.
OK: After talking to two people with direct knowledge of how TLOU2 leaked as well as some Naughty Dog employees, I have a good idea of what happened. Short version: hackers found a security vulnerability in a patch for an older ND game and used it to get access to ND’s servers.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) May 3, 2020
Pixelbutts went into depth about the technological aspects that lead to story and gameplay elements of The Last of Us Part II to leak online. In the thread of Twitter post, the developer was told by someone connected to finding this vulnerability but claims to have not been involved with the leak. Every title from Naughty Dog has a final patch with an Amazon AWS key, and if you have access to the proper ID, then you are in the servers.
The weakness was found back in January of this year with Pixelbutts finding out about it in February. The hackers were initially using it to save the first Last of Us and the third Uncharted entry. One thing leads to another; we have the leaks popping up on the Internet from the upcoming The Last of Us Part II.
Every ND game has a "final" patch that is pushed to the game that contains an Amazon AWS key, that when paired with a secret bucket ID it will give full access to the server's contents.
Theres a different key and bucket ID per game, this is important
— PixelButts (@PixelButts) May 3, 2020
On April 27, the leaks appeared online, and then on May 1, Gamesindustry.biz reported that Sony had caught the individuals. Shortly after the news about the leak came a new release date for The Last of Us Part II, which will launch on June 19.
The Last of Us Part II has hit every bump in the road possible this year. It was set for a February release date then got pushed to May, and because of COVID-19 (coronavirus), it got set for an indefinite release. It is unclear if the leaks pushed Sony to set the June launch date or if this was planned beforehand. On top of that, Kotaku reported more crunch issues with Naughty Dog, a problem that has been a part of the company’s work environment for a long time.