Contrary to the stereotype, kids and teens aren’t the only fans of video games. It turns out that people never really outgrow the enthusiasm for this activity nowadays, with adults forming a large segment of gaming addicts. This major industry is becoming growingly inclusive over time, and it’s not mere speculation.
According to the findings of VentureBeat, a technology news and analysis company, the number of females who pay for online games exceeds the male audiences, and the average age of a gamer is 31. Furthermore, there are more gamers over 36 years old than in the 18-35 range, or under 18. Researchers at Newzoo, a well-known market intelligence firm, say the worth of the global gaming industry will reach $180.1 billion by 2021.
Given the huge numbers, it comes as no surprise that cybercriminals are increasingly zeroing in on gamers. Lured by the opportunities of financial gain, hackers are constantly expanding their portfolio of attacks in this particular ecosystem. In light of this menace, security for online gamers is now more important than ever before.
Below is a one-stop cybersecurity guide for game fans and a lowdown on the common risks you may encounter if you’re on board the gaming hype train.
1: Theft of credentials for a related account
In your overall gaming activity, one hacked account can be a launchpad for further exploitation putting the other accounts at risk. Even the stolen credentials for some primitive browser game you signed up for a while ago can be leveraged to access more valuable accounts.
Reports about major web services being breached are hitting the headlines all the time. A garden-variety database of leaked user credentials and numerous vulnerabilities is a goldmine for malefactors. Ill-gotten personal information is readily available on numerous dark web resources, plus it’s cheap for criminals to obtain. Once they have your username and password, they cash in on a hypothesis that you might reuse these details to log into the other accounts. The culprits won’t fail to give this hacking vector a shot.
Here’s some extra food for thought: a couple of gaming accounts being linked with one’s credit card is a common scenario. Obviously, having those credentials exposed to attackers is a slippery slope.
2: Gaming viruses and APTs (advanced persistent threats)
Some video games can be booby-trapped. It’s either because the game itself is intended to be a red herring that distracts would-be victims from a malware attack taking place behind the scenes, or because perpetrators stealthily incorporate harmful code into a legit game. A vast majority of malware-riddled games are pirated ones downloaded for free or distributed in some other shady way. You can also find games designed to be a virus.
When it comes to staying on the safe side, a rule of thumb is to stick with legitimate versions of video games and buy them via reputable platforms, such as Steam and GOG. These services’ security mechanisms can fend off potentially dangerous content.
3: Third-party mobile games
Gaming apps for mobile devices are less tedious to develop than their desktop counterparts, which explains why they are so prolific. That being said, it’s more difficult for gamers and publishing networks to verify the security of these apps.
If you put two and two together, you’ll understand why the number of security incidents in this particular domain was greater than in the PC and console games environment over the past years. Here’s another thing to keep in mind: if a game is listed on Google Play or another trustworthy mobile marketplace, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe. There’s reportedly plenty of malicious code getting around the filters of large app stores.
4: Password-stealing malware
Ever heard of keyloggers? These are harmful programs that record keystrokes and can thereby pilfer the victims’ passwords. Hackers may inject such info-stealers into popular games in order to get hold of the account credentials. To top it off, if this type of malware infiltrates your computer it can steal other sensitive information. Most people access their gaming profiles and other personal accounts on the same device. It means their e-banking, online shopping, and other sensitive accounts are at risk as well.
One of the most important precautions in this regard is to refrain from clicking on links sent by other gamers who purportedly offer you to check out a new version of the game or something similarly enticing. This trick fits the mold of a commonplace phishing attack aimed at contaminating your device with password-stealing malware.
In fact, this kind of malware activity is soaring because it allows black hats to rake in fortunes without taking much effort. Even a harmless-looking comment on YouTube with a link in it can get you in trouble these days.
5: Pirated games doing the rounds via torrents
If you are a game lover but cannot afford to purchase some nifty new release, there might be a temptation to take a shortcut and get a pirated copy from torrents. This controversial practice doesn’t only affect game creators who invested a great deal of money and efforts to develop their remarkable product. It’s also risky business for you because cybercrooks are quite likely to spread malware by means of torrents.
At the very least, together with the game, you may get adware, which is not a virus by itself but can cause a lot of troubles too. Cheat codes are a source of potential danger, too. They may turn out to be viruses in disguise or come bundled with malicious components.
6: Phishing emails in your inbox
Phishing campaigns are particularly dangerous for gamers because they are orchestrated on a large-scale and the felons’ techniques are growingly sophisticated. After you register an account with any gaming platform, you will probably get accustomed to receiving emails from them once in a while.
However, hackers may impersonate popular services to get you on the hook. Their messages usually bear a strong resemblance to legitimate emails you routinely get from the gaming platform. The logos, general style, and email addresses may appear valid at first sight.
To steer clear of phishing hoaxes, don’t enter your password when an email like that requests it. Also, watch out for the red flags, such as links embedded in a message, wrong sender address, misspellings, dubious attachments, text imposing urgency, or similar. Additionally, consider using an Internet security solution with an anti-phishing feature in its toolkit.
Security tips for gamers
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the typical threats to your gaming activities, go ahead and take a look at some of the best-practice security techniques below:
- Use strong passwords
- Never reuse your passwords
- Opt for 2FA (two-factor authentication) to log into gaming accounts
- Use effective security software
- Don’t open suspicious email attachments
- Apply OS and software updates once available
- Purchase in-game currency from the official provider only
- Avoid dubious game add-ons, cracks, or unverified applications
- Abstain from sharing sensitive information with other players
- Be leery of phishing
- Exercise caution with links on social networks
- Stick with genuine sources to download games
- Don’t stop improving your gaming security skills