Gamers don’t just need to defeat virtual opponents – there’s real world vigilance required in gaming, too.
It might come as a surprise to non-gamers, but there’s an entire criminal fraternity out to hack gamers, steal their virtual goods, or their personal data, access codes, and passwords. Non-gamers may even be forgiven for imagining that virtual good thievery is part of the game. That doesn’t hurt anybody, right?
Well, apart from wounding your sense of security and – in the case of data theft – rolling right onto more conventional bank account stripping or coin wallet denuding, virtual goods generate real cash, in the real world.
It’s criminal and make no mistake, just because the crime happens within the confines of a “game” doesn’t mean it’s any less scary or abusive that any other crime. Indeed, ask any reputable IT support outfit like EC-MSP, and they can tell you what a massive shadow online criminality is in their working life.
Gaming is no exception.
Gaming security in a nutshell
To glean a bit of perspective, video games currently constitute the largest entertainment industry in the world.
There’s also an intimacy between gamer and game company, meaning that loads of personal data might be shared and stored in the name of gaming－a nice pile waiting to be looted by unscrupulous crooks.
Use a password manager instead of generic passwords across platforms
At the top of the list are easy, generic passwords.
A significant proportion of gamers, no doubt like many ordinary citizens, utilise generic passwords across devices and sites. It’s hard not to sympathise－generic passwords certainly do make life easier－but it’s perhaps time for concerned gamers to get themselves a password keeper, as cyber crooks know only too well that their focus is on the game, not the login or other important details that access to most platforms demand.
Protect your virtual valuables and currency
Then, there’s the surprisingly “real” virtual valuables hoard that gamers often have. Just like collector items in the real world, there are gaming assets that many would pay real money for, if they could only find them available. A ready-made market for crooks, therefore, exists in the gaming fraternity, just as stolen goods are laundered or absorbed in the real world.
Game currencies are very much like cryptocurrencies; it’s now easy to see that they were certainly precursors to Bitcoin. If a virtual asset is rare, or denotes rank or prestige, there are people out there scheming to pinch it. Where many gamers gather, there are trophies to be stolen.
Unfortunately, sometimes players themselves show crooks where their treasure lies – and at other times, the other players are crooks, too.
Think of the RuneScape moderator who abused his position of oversight and nicked 45 billion of the game’s currency in coins, exchanging them for a cool $100,000 in cash. The authentication and distribution platforms that sell many popular games are also not above reproach. Unfortunately, these platforms have a history of players’ virtual goods (Steam) and even entire accounts (Origin) being stolen on occasion.
Data is still first prize
Personal data is still the primary target of most hacks because it’s the most direct route to transferring someone’s money into a crypto wallet or otherwise cleaning them out, assuming you get the right data.
Too much data collected and displayed by game companies
Further, mobile and online games tend to collect an unnecessarily large amount of data on their users (although social media platforms are no better). Therefore, any breach results in a loss far larger than necessary. There’s no guarantee that bank details or other valuable intel is held within a user’s profile, but with monthly fees and in-game transacting, it usually is.
As stated, weak or reused passwords are a prime entry point for bad actors.
To compound the threat, some platforms openly display usernames in group games, meaning hackers with time on their hands will try dozens of accounts with guessed-at passwords. If yours is weak, beware.
Some games also allow a glimpse of top scorers, replete with minute details. Its likely top scorers have something to steal, too, and you’ve already got half of what you need to do it.
It’s basic to online life, yet happy gamers are often blasé about the reality of stalking crooks. They’re there, they mean business, and they’re too often successful.
Phishing threat posed by fellow gamers
As in the rest of the online world, phishing is constant.
Gamer phishers have the added benefit of presenting as fellow gamers, and apart from the standard email phishing attempts, hackers will also set up a fake login page or even try to spike gamers in a chat room with malicious links or apps. Gamers can also be fooled into willingly downloading malicious spyware and the like by hackers posing as good buddies who want to give you a hack (ha ha) or cheat for a game.
Gamers should never download alleged cheats unless they have an inner circle member who can vouch for the source. Phishers also have slightly more options than standard online tricks when it comes to gamers, being able to dip into someone’s virtual reserves before swiftly moving on.
How to keep your gamer credentials and virtual goods secure
Moral of the story?
Play it tight!
Use hard-to-guess generated passwords from a password manager (it’s a lot less painful than having your accounts cleared out) and treat everyone unknown like a pariah until further notice.
Be aware of how your details are displayed on the games you play.
Although antivirus is often a nuisance for gamers – calling false positives or otherwise obstructing their ease of use – there are some good game-mode products out there that are gamer sensitive. These won’t dampen performance, a frequent gamer concern.
Stay vigilant to get the most joy out of your gaming – the kind that doesn’t involve an occasional, massive, ugly loss.
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