Note: This was originally posted by me on the Intrepidus Group blog ( on November 30, 2011. Reproduced here for posterity.

If you’re a gamer like me, you’ve probably been waiting for the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently being developed by Bioware. I’ve been looking for beta codes, and came across Penny Arcade’s beta code give-away some time ago (bless their souls).

As I was signing up for the beta, I noticed something interesting: the registration page immediately told you if the email you’d typed in matched an EA Origin account. This piqued my interest: was this exploitable, other than testing if email addresses were associated with Origin? I signed up with my Origin account, and strangely, it asked for a new password, without authenticating my current password. Digging further, I realized that you could reset the password to a new one of your choosing, with one caveat: the holder of the email account needs to access the verification link sent to the email address as part of signup. Here’s the email:

NewUser: Thank you for joining the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ community! To complete your registration and activate your account, simply verify your email address by > clicking here. Remember, we will update or create an EA account using this email address upon your email validation.

Normally, this would be good enough to prevent unauthorized password resets, but I found it strange that nowhere on the registration page or the email did it say that my password would be reset, and no indication after the reset. Conceivably, you could sign up a large number of Origin accounts for the SWTOR beta, and if the target doesn’t log into his Origin account immediately, he’d be unaware his account has been compromised. If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably signed up for a dozen betas, hoping to get lucky now and then – a “confirm you want to join the Star Wars beta” email from EA would raise no suspicions whatsoever.

I decided to report the issue to EA. I couldn’t find a security contact on their website, but a bit of e-stalking later with a colleague, found the email address of the EA CISO, and shot off an email describing what I’d found. To my surprise, instead of being ignored or receiving a letter from their legal department, I got a response within the hour – “Do you mind sharing your details so we can address the issue promptly? We take security very seriously and would like to get on it right away.” I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Four days and some email exchanges later, I received an email from one of their Online Development Directors: thank you for reporting the issue, a patch has been deployed – oh and we’d like to send you some free SWTOR swag to show our appreciation.

This was a pretty fun experience for me. It wasn’t a critical vulnerability, but had the potential for mass abuse. EA was on the ball in fixing the bug, and kept me in the loop. You don’t get that too often. Now if only I could use this to have EA give me a permanent beta testing status for all games ;)

update: I never got a permanent beta invite, but they did send me an autographed poster and a tshirt :)