Hacker Leaks 800,000 Scraped Chess.com User Records

Chess.com has not experienced a cyber attack or security breach.

The scraped Chess.com data was leaked on Breach Forums on November 8th, 2023 by a threat actor operating under the alias ‘DrOne.’

Update: Saturday, 11th November 2023 – In an exclusive statement to Hackread.com, Chess.com has acknowledged the incident and verified the authenticity of the data leak. The complete statement from the company can be found at the end of this article.

A threat actor operating under the alias ‘DrOne’ has claimed responsibility for leaking the scraped database of Chess.com containing the personal data of more than 800,000 registered users.

Announcement on the Breach Forums (Screenshot credit: Hackread.com)

Chess.com is a highly popular online platform for chess enthusiasts and a social networking website. As of 2023, the platform boasts more than 150 million registered users, indicating that the leaked records account for approximately only 0.533% of the total user base.

The database was disclosed on November 8th, 2023 on Breach Forums, a well-known platform for hackers and cybercrime activities. Interestingly, this forum recently saw another threat actor leaking a scraped database from LinkedIn just a couple of days prior, which contained information from 25 million users.

The Leaked Data

After a comprehensive scan of the Chess.com database by Hackread.com, our analysis confirms the exposure of personal data from 828,327 registered users. The leaked information includes:

  • Full names
  • Usernames
  • Profile links
  • Email addresses
  • Users’ originating countries
  • Avatar URLs (containing profile pictures)
  • Universally Unique Identifier (UUID) and User IDs
  • Date of registration (with the most recent sign-up in September 2023)

If combined, the leaked information can serve as a treasure trove for cybercriminals. This data could be utilized for identity theft, phishing scams, social engineering attacks, or even to cross-reference previously leaked login credentials to obtain passwords.

Announcement from the leaked Chess.com data – Clicking on links would open the user profile and profile images (Screenshot credit: Hackread.com)

Fortunately, the leaked data does not include passwords. However, when Hackread.com attempted to sign up using the leaked email addresses, nearly every email address used prompted the message ‘An account already exists with this email address.’ This suggests that the leaked database contained valid and active email addresses associated with existing Chess.com accounts.

(Screenshot credit: Hackread.com)

Web Scraping is Hard to Avoid/Block

Web scraping or data scraping, is an automated process utilized by software to extract data from websites, primarily for gathering specific information from web pages. The process is almost impossible to block since Chess.com is a large website.

Large websites use various measures to prevent scraping, such as rate limiting and captcha challenges. However, scrapers are constantly developing new techniques to circumvent these measures and some scrapers may collect the data for research purposes, such as to study social networks or to develop machine learning models.

Chess.com and Cybersecurity

This is not the first time Chess.com has made headlines for cybersecurity-related issues. In February 2021, a well-known ethical hacker, Sam Curry, discovered and reported a critical vulnerability within the platform. This flaw allowed the researcher to potentially access any account on the site, including the administrator account.

This new breach poses a significant threat to Chess.com users, potentially facilitating various scams such as identity theft and phishing. For Chess.com users, changing your password not only on the platform but also across any other online accounts where the same password is used is strongly recommended.

Cybercriminals might deploy phishing tactics, sending emails with links leading to malicious websites mimicking Chess.com or other legitimate platforms. It is crucial to refrain from clicking on any such links. However, you can safely check the real URL by hovering over the link before clicking it.

Chess.com’s statement to Hackread.com

In a statement to Hackread.com, a representative from Chess.com confirmed their awareness of the issue, acknowledging that a threat actor had exploited their API to gather and later leak publicly accessible user information.

“Today, we learned that some bad actors used our API to collect and release some publicly available member data. This was NOT a data breach. Our infrastructure, member accounts, and data such as passwords are secure,” the company said.

The representative further revealed that the attackers exploited the “find friends” feature in the platform’s API. Utilizing email addresses from sources external to Chess.com, the attackers conducted searches to match these emails with existing Chess.com accounts.

Subsequently, they exposed and published sensitive information, including Chess.com usernames, associated email addresses, and other public details like account creation and last login dates.

“The bad actors used email addresses found outside Chess.com to search our API via the “find friends” feature and match email addresses to Chess.com accounts. Those Chess.com usernames, email addresses, and other public information such as the account creation date, and last login date were published,” the representative explained.

Chess.com has apologized to users for the inconvenience and emphasized that this incident was not a data breach, assuring users that their passwords remain secure.

“Again, this was NOT a data breach – merely a scrape of our public API. We recognize that for members who have had their linked username/email address disclosed, this may be frustrating, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.”

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