While being a relatively new industry, online gaming thrives as never before. A few decades ago, gamers were not taken so seriously as they are today. Now it’s generally known that this isn’t something one simply outgrows. On the contrary, gamers usually are those at the forefront of technology, experts of various fields enjoying the fascinating world of video games.
So, with numbers reaching multi-billions of dollars per year, the industry evolves significantly. And so do cybercriminals and their malicious techniques. It’s crucial to build healthy cybersecurity habits and include them in all of our virtual activities, even in such innocent-looking ones like gaming. Here we share the most common cybersecurity threats and our tips on how to secure online gaming experience and then, yup, enjoy your game.
What are the most common risks?
Honestly, how many of you reuse the same passwords on multiple platforms? But what if one of those platforms is hacked? Credential stuffing is probably one of the easiest techniques for hackers to steal data and money. All it takes is to buy already leaked credentials and assume that people tend to reuse the same password for several accounts. Well, unfortunately, it’s true. So then hackers keep trying and trying until they break-in.
- Keylogging malware
Hackers can go really far and use your favorite online games as infected bait to steal your account or credentials. Keyloggers are a type of malware that tracks which keys are being pressed on a computer (and which touchscreen points are used) while a person using the keyboard is unaware that the actions are being monitored. Since most of the people tend to use the same passwords for both gaming and their personal accounts (even for online banking), their private information becomes even more vulnerable.
- Hacker-friendly passwords
This one is on us. If we ourselves use weak passwords when signing up to a new gaming account, well, then we’re kind of asking for trouble. To perform an attack, cybercriminals need only your user name and email address. With a little help from a bot, they’ll try all the passwords in their database until they finally succeed and crack them. So try to think of a strong unique password for each of your accounts, using a combination of lower/uppercase letters and numbers. Or use password management software.
Even though you feel like you can trust your squad in your favorite online multiplayer game, well, you shouldn’t. While spending uncountable hours together online, you might accidentally leak some of your personal information to your guild buddies. Now, the Internet gives the privilege of anonymity to all of us and unfortunately, some might be using it for cheating and stealing. So stay cautious and don’t share your private details unless you want them to end up on the dark web. Actually, this kind of information should always stay private and never be shared with anyone, not even your friends or co-workers.
Phishing (or think before you click)
When you sign up on a gaming platform, you’ll start getting emails. And even though they look legitimate and official with all the logos, be cautious that some of the emails might actually be phishing attacks. So think well and be observant of small details before you click any sent link.
This technique is remarkably often used to trick gamers into clicking malicious links. A scandal of Fortnite reminds us, how its gamers have been hooked to click on links posted in gaming forums promising them free tokens. Unfortunately, the links were part of an attack and provided hackers the necessary information to breach players’ accounts.
Piracy risks & malware
Cutting corners and buying cheats or installing pirated game versions from a P2P website might be tempting but don’t fall for it. If doing so, you’ll become more liable to malware and compromise the whole system. Hackers know very well what games are most wanted and can use them as bait.
The best you can do is to buy legitimate and official versions of the games through globally recognized gaming platforms. Not to mention, that this way you’ll pay your part to its developers who invested so much effort into creating that thrilling game.
Character and inventory theft
Some serious gamers spend years developing their characters and in-game resources (for instance, EVE Online or Warcraft). After investing an enormous amount of time and getting deeply involved in the content, they become at risk for ransomware. Cybercriminals might steal your paid game account in numerous ways. To put a long story in short, the more extended your character is, the bigger chance that hackers will show interest in targeting you. The best thing you can do here is to secure your account as possible: start with introducing two-factor authentication and use unique passwords for your in-game account.
Cyberstalking or cyberbullying
Besides cyber attacks, we shouldn’t underestimate the emotional ones. Yup, online gaming sometimes can get really intense and raise not the most subtle language or behavior. It’s a thin line before heated arguments turn into cyberbullying.
Now, we all know that it’s necessary to keep our identity a secret, however through time some details might leak. If so, certain opponents can use the information they gather and bully you on social media making your life especially bitter. Simply by looking up your IP address, they’re closer to locate your primary address and start stalking you. It sounds rather threatening, but, honestly, you never know how your online companions would react to the continuous loss of the game.
Tips for protecting yourself while gaming
Secure your email:
- Delegate a separate email address just for your gaming accounts. This will help you to keep your real identity and data separate from your gaming avatars.
- Always keep an eye out for fake suspicious emails or websites, especially when shopping for new games. Some popular gaming networks have been targeted by look-alike login spoofs leading to mass breaches of data.
- Again, think before you click. Links to such obscure websites could potentially be found anywhere on the Internet. Quite famously, there has been an outbreak of fake websites, selling in-game items of Fortnite. So, if you find yourself on any website that’s selling something, do your research about it before spending a dime. It’s not just your money, but also your information at risk.
Protect your identity:
- This might sound too obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat the ABCs of cybersecurity. And let’s remember this when getting emotional while playing. So, never give your personal information over the Internet, especially while downloading unknown games.
- Just like with a separate email, your other personal information should always be kept away from who you’re in video games. Don’t create a username that contains your real name, age, location or any other information. This becomes even more important if you seek followers and fame on any social network.
- On some popular video game streaming platforms, there used to be a trend of “swatting” when, if some other entity would get a hold of a player’s real-life location, it could fake a threat to local authorities and even get them arrested by special law enforcement units. While such action is highly illegal in most countries, it can be easily avoided by covering your personal details. Yeah, just like that.
- To ensure your safety and anonymity, it’s also highly recommended to use a virtual private network tool. Not only it encrypts your Internet traffic and IP address, but also you’ll be protected from targeted DDoS attacks.
Use strong passwords:
- When it comes to your password, use the most recommended practices: create separate keys for each of your accounts, selecting a combination of letters, numbers, lower- and uppercase letters. Despite numerous articles on cybersecurity attacks, surprisingly among the top most common passwords, there still are qwerty, 11111, 12345678, and similar hacker-friendly standards.
- Set up two-factor authentication in your device. Without physical access, hackers won’t be able to get into your account so easily.
Check the source:
- Be careful before opening files attached to your email or instant messages. Do your research first and verify the authenticity of downloaded files.
- Don’t download software and games from unknown websites. Especially, be cautious while downloading free games as they may contain a virus.
- If downloading modifications for your game, use trusted websites and workshops.
- Take screenshots of any unusual or ugly situation you get into. Although this small tip sounds quite simple, it might bring you some strong evidence if you need some proof when contacting support or reporting an issue.
- Keep your application software updated, so you know that any possible previous security holes are fixed.