The online gaming industry has exploded in recent years and is expected to generate close to $200 billion in revenue by 2022. Popular games are reporting revenues in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars per month.
This booming industry is seeing significant growth, largely due to the pandemic, with many turning to online gaming to escape some of the realities that consumed many of us over the past year. Coupled with the fact that the next generation of gaming consoles are being released to meet the demographics of both younger and older consumers, the gaming world will continue to expand.
However, due to the reliance on connectivity, the gaming community is not immune to cybersecurity threats. Sensitive information, both personal and financial, are used, stored, and linked to online gaming accounts. If exploited, this information can be a valuable target for cybercriminals. To avoid being targeted and to continue enjoying the mystical worlds found within online gaming, users need to be aware of cybersecurity threats.
The most common security threats to online gamers include:
Computer viruses and trojan malware – The likelihood of someone with an internet connection suffering a computer virus is high. Whether it’s through downloading a rogue attachment or playing a game from an unprotected website, computer viruses are common. Trojan viruses resemble real software and are some of the most common tactics used by cybercriminal networks.
Ransomware – Usually associated with enterprises, ransomware is also found to infect systems and consoles used by online gamers. Typically, the gamer has information stolen and can only be retrieved once a ransom is paid from the victim to the attacker.
Phishing and stolen identities – Phishing, the go-to method of attack for cybercriminals, is also a frequent tactic within the gaming community. Typically, a message will be sent from a malicious individual mimicking a trusted user that they may have encountered online, asking for personal information. Once obtained, this information is then used to extort the victim or conduct fraudulent activity using their identity.
Spyware – Without realising it, gamers could be targeted through spyware schemes, especially if they are dealing with an untrustworthy online gaming operation. Spyware monitors a user’s every movement and actions on the internet without their knowledge. If this information is recorded, it can then be sold to third parties, which is a breach in privacy.
Tackling these cyber threats as an online gamer
While these threats seem menacing and can cause distress, online gamers should not put down their gaming pads in fear, as there are ways to mitigate these risks to have a safer online experience.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are an ideal tool to mask sensitive information. They are commonly used to obscure one’s location, IP address, history, activity, and digital devices, making the VPN a very strong defence against identity theft threats.
Antivirus software can scan for known viruses and prompt the user to take action once it finds a threat. The software indicates the infected files and schedules regular scans to protect the computer. Also, this software can offer protection against ransomware, spyware, Trojans, and spam. It is worth noting that antivirus software will only prevent against known threats.
Also, do not be so trusting when using free public Wi-Fi as hackers have mastered the art of accessing these networks to extract users’ sensitive information – this holds true for uses beyond gaming. Conducting online payments, which can occur if the user is making in-game purchases, or logging into personal accounts should be avoided unless a VPN is being used. When using a mobile phone to conduct personal tasks like accessing a bank account, avoid using public Wi-Fi and use your phone provider’s network to connect to the internet as the cellular network is encrypted.
Additionally, following basic password security hygiene is beneficial. Users should create unique passwords for all online gaming and gambling accounts. Ideally, these passwords will be long passphrases that have no association to the individual, nor should they use popular names that can be easily guessed. If managing passwords is difficult, consider using a password manager for added security.
Lastly, remove data and information from a device before it is sold, given to a friend or family member, or donated. These systems will contain a trove of sensitive and valuable information so wiping if from the memory is critical. To achieve this, users can conduct a factory reset or employ a data destruction company to delete the contents on the hard drive.
By following and combining these security tips, users can continue to game online in a safer environment. You might be able to respawn in a game, but you can’t in real life. Protecting one’s identity and sensitive information is paramount in all walks of life, and the gaming industry is no different.