Online gaming has become a multi-billion industry in a few short decades. Consumer spending on gaming is estimated to exceed an amount of $196 billion in a few years. However, with so much money at play, hackers and other cybercriminals have increased their focus on targeting gamers.
A 2019 survey by McAfee threw up some startling insights on security and gamers. While 75% of gamers surveyed were concerned about how secure gaming will be in the future, 55% of gamers surveyed reused their passwords. That is practically leaving yourself open to cyber-attacks and potentially ending up losing either critical data or a lot of money. Let us look at some cybersecurity risks that online gamers should be aware of.
1. Theft of Personal Data
Hackers tend to target the accounts of online gamers. Mobile and online games collect a vast amount of user data. Certain mobile games track personal information like user location, phone calls, and even engagement with media. Monthly subscription models for online games result in hackers potentially getting access to gamers’ personal financial information. Hackers inserted a virus called “Mapin” into popular games like “Candy Crush” and stole gamers’ data on the Android platform.
2. Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks are often carried out against online gamers. The phishers do not limit themselves to fraudulent emails designed to trick users of their login credentials. Phishers create a fake page and try to induce gamers to login and, in the process, give the phishers access to their personal data. Another one is to pose as an online gamer’s friend and send him or her malicious links using popular chat software.
3. Security flaws in websites and games
Gamers rely on online gaming companies to do sufficient due diligence on the security of gaming platforms. Unfortunately, game companies do not always uphold this responsibility successfully. Back in 2018, a popular game called “Fortnite” was targeted by cybercriminals. A fake site offered “V-bucks” to Fortnite users, which they were supposed to use to purchase in-game bonuses to progress quickly in Fortnite. The hackers induced gamers to click on a malware link by offering V-bucks as a reward in return for completing an online survey. The fake app was downloaded 5,000 times before Google Security removed it. However, those 5,000 mobile devices were infected with malware which was subsequently used for illegal crypto mining by utilizing mobile CPUs.
How can online gamers protect themselves?
There are some basic precautions that online gamers can take to protect themselves. These are:
1. Better use of passwords
Following good password practices is an essential place for online gamers to start when it comes to security. They should follow industry guidelines to achieve maximum password strength. Furthermore, gamers should also consider the usage of passphrases instead of simple passwords.
2. Awareness about phishing
Never click on any link without knowing where it leads to. Even a link sent by a friend could be potentially malicious if their friend’s account has been compromised. One thing to keep in mind is that a game provider will usually never ask you for personal information or your login details. If you are uncertain about an email’s genuineness, it’s a good idea to contact the game provider’s support team and clarify for yourself.
3. Protection from Malware
Online gamers may be reluctant to run antivirus software since they are reputed to have an adverse impact on device performance. A few antivirus software also gives out false-positive results in the case of game platforms or games. Gamers should get an antivirus that has a “game-mode” feature to ensure that they get protection from malware without compromising performance.