Original Modern Warfare 2 servers yanked offline after players report self-replicating malware

A soldier against a background of fire and smoke.
(Image credit: Activision)

The PC servers for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (the one from 2009, not the recent one, yes I'm still upset about this) have gone down temporarily after players of the venerable classic reported encountering hacked lobbies in the game's multiplayer mode. Not ordinary hacked lobbies, mind you—the ones that just reset your settings or do something else mildly aggravating—these ones were apparently infecting players with a self-spreading worm virus.

A post last Wednesday on the official Call of Duty Updates Twitter account reads that "Multiplayer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) on Steam was brought offline while we investigate reports of an issue." Eagle-eyed readers will note that the tweet very specifically does not mention which "issue" in particular the shutdown is related to, but given that it came a month after players began reporting encounters with a worm called Wacatac.B!ml in MW2 lobbies, it seems likely it's related.

Either that, or Activision is just overflowing with goodwill at the moment after its recent sudden decision to fix matchmaking on MW2 (2009)'s servers on the Xbox 360.  

I've reached out to Activision to ask for clarification on the reason behind MW2's temporary server shutdown, and I'll update this piece if I hear back.

One player on the Steam forums said they analysed the malware and found strings indicating it was "coded specifically for MW2." I'm no expert, but the strings posted by that user sure look like a worm to me. One string that reads "User was randomly selected to be a spreader in modded lobbies" suggests that pretty much anyone who runs afoul of the virus risks being converted into a vector for it, which probably goes some way to explaining why even a company as, ah, laissez-faire about its older games as Activision might want to intervene before it got out of hand.

An anonymous source spoken to by TechCrunch "confirmed that the malware contains those strings, indicating a worm".

For now, I suppose the hundreds of people still playing 2009's MW2 in 2023 will have to wait for another update from Activision. The tweet announcing the server closure gave no estimates as to how long they'd be down for, and the account itself hasn't posted anything since that announcement two days ago. With any luck it'll be sooner rather than later, and we don't have another situation on our hands like the one that took Dark Souls out of commission for literal months.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.