The video games and gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. With an estimated 2.7 billion people gaming globally, Statista projects that this industry will be worth more than $138 billion in 2021.
But as impressive as that is, the growth and development of this industry haven’t come without its risks.
As the number of video games increases in the market, cybercriminals have now found ways to exploit and attack gamers.
Most of these attacks are money-driven, with the criminals targeting your credit card credentials and site logins.
Online gaming has also opened grounds for cyberbullies and trolls, – but this is only a tip of the many cyber threats you’re exposed to daily.
Common online gaming cyber threats you should know
Just like a hacker can trick you into giving up your banking details via an email, the same can happen for online gamers. Attackers know that it’s hard to access your financial details directly, so they trick you by creating a replica of popular gaming sites.
They then prompt you to revisit your account privacy and change your password for security purposes via a provided link. They may also threaten to close your account if you fail to complete those steps.
Once you do this, they can read out your details and steal your money, or sell your virtual game collections. Your details can also be sold on the black market!
A good phishing example is from the widely popular game Fortnite. Owing to its vast success, many attackers target Fortnite gamers with website doppelgangers, scam text messages, and spam emails.
2. Social engineering theft
As more people are embracing better online security practices, hackers are also quickly modifying their attack strategies. Social engineering is now one of the most prevalent threats for online gamers. It involves manipulating the gamer’s psychology, so they give up their sensitive details.
These cybercriminals understand that video gaming is a very competitive practice. In most cases, it pushes people to invest in cheats and other shortcuts to becoming the best.
With this knowledge, the criminal creates a dubious page, promising free mods and patch hacks to the ‘under-pressure’ gamer. Due to their impatience and greed, the attacker lures the players to their malicious sites and steals their critical details.
And even in cases where the site has the mods or game cheats, those files might still contain malware. So, once you download them, the malware starts collecting your data.
3. Cyber-bullying and trolling
Bullying and trolling is one of the biggest challenges facing the video games world. With nearly every video game enabling text or voice chatting, it’s hard to regulate these communication channels. This has provided room for vulgar language and insults to roam in the lonely streets of the gaming world – which is wrong.
Bullying and trolling in video games also goes beyond words. It also happens when another player singles you out and makes it his/her aim to make your character suffer. This is called ‘griefing.’
Based on past trends, these terrible habits can have a huge impact on a player’s mental and emotional health. This gets worse if the player is a child or teen.
4. Character and inventory theft
In most high-profile video games, some of the gaming resources have real value and can be exchanged in the real market for the money. The more you play the game, the more resources you amass and the more valuable your character becomes.
Nonetheless, being good at the game puts you at the top of the list of many cybercriminals. These attackers may steal your inventory, your game money, and even the credentials linked to your credit cards. You become more susceptible to phishing and targeted malware.
5. Attacks on gaming platforms
In addition to phishing scams and malware attacks, online gamers can also fall victim to attacks targeting gaming platforms. Being the central hub for all the gaming data, attackers sometimes attack these platforms stealing consumer data, employee credentials, and distorting the game’s integrity.
They can do this via Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks which floods their servers, allowing them to steal player passwords and details. The attackers may also send out malicious game updates and utilities that end-up compromising their devices.
Such attacks may cause a permanent loss of your progress and gaming files. If linked to your credit card accounts, you could also lose all your capital. You, therefore, need to learn some basic online gaming security tips before proceeding with your gaming adventures.
How to protect yourself when gaming online
Now that you have an idea of what you, or your kids, are exposed to each time you game online, it’s time to take action. Here are eight of the best ways to protect yourself gaming online.
1. Verify your game sources
Before purchasing or downloading any games, you first need to ascertain that they’re from a credible source. Look for games on their official websites and only purchase the games from the site.
Downloading the games on torrent sites for free may seem cheap, but it may also come with malware. So, do your research before getting any video game and ensure that the developers are legal.
2. Keep private information private
When gaming online, you rarely know other gamers or their intentions. As such, you need to minimize any details that can pinpoint them to your real identity. For instance, don’t use your name as your username, or add your email address to your profile.
The less there is about you, the more secure you’ll be. If any private detail is optional, don’t add it. Moreover, don’t share these details with anyone on game chat rooms or gaming communities.
And if you have to pay for anything, then ensure you have a separate credit card for your gaming needs. Separate your private life from your virtual life!
3. Always use a Virtual Private Network
Online gaming, like the internet, is a scary place. A small leak in your private data and you could lose a lot more than you thought you had. That’s why your privacy is a crucial component of online gaming.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best tools you can use to stay safe when gaming online. It hides your IP address and allows you to connect to servers in different countries, making it hard for anyone to track your location. Additionally, the VPN enables you to safely buy and download games that aren’t yet available in your country.
A good gaming VPN also helps improve your ping rate and reduces your lag, providing you with a fantastic experience.
4. Play on secure servers
When starting out with online gaming, one of the critical things to look for is the security of the server you are playing from. It should have robust encryption features and authentication to protect your personal details.
If a gaming platform’s server isn’t secure, all your crucial subscription details will be at the mercies of a hacker. So, even if you don’t know how to verify the server security, make use of websites that provide secure websites for players.
5. Don’t condone cyberbullies and trolls
After social media, the video game world is the next place you’re likely to experience cyberbullying. If not you, then your kids will. You, therefore, need to be prepared to handle the bullies and trolls without stirring a war.
With so many people participating in the gaming chat rooms, don’t excuse any cyberbullying or trolling targeted towards you. Report such users, block them and don’t interact with them.
Online gaming should give you joy and tons of fun – not mental health issues.
6. Update your OS and games
When doing anything online, updating your software and OS is one of the most crucial security tips there is. Updates are meant to patch up any security flaw that the developers have detected on their software.
Failing to install these updates then leaves room for vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit and use to spread malware on your devices. If possible, allow the automatic updates from your developer for the multiplayer games.
But most importantly, don’t download updates from unauthorized sources – this could be digging your own grave.
7. Get an Antivirus
In the fight against malware and other hacking attacks, an antivirus is one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal. It not only detects malware in the gaming files you download, but it can also delete the detected malware.
Nonetheless, ensure that your antivirus is up-to-date and activated on your machine every time before you start gaming. Some of the best antiviruses in the market will also provide ad-blocking features for an uninterrupted gaming experience.
8. Be suspicious with Mods and Cheats
The prospect of using a Mod or cheat code to improve your success rate in the game appeals to everyone. Every player has been there at one point or the other. And while these Mods can transform your gaming experience, you need to be careful when downloading them.
Some hackers hide their Malware in-game Mods and so, once you download it, you also welcome malware to your devices. This could easily damage your devices and steal your sensitive information.
As a rule, only get your cheats and mods from trusted sources like the developer’s site.
Online gaming is one of the best ways to pass time and have fun. But you shouldn’t risk your security and financial details in the name of having fun. So, whenever you want to start slaying those giants or winning that game, ensure that your privacy and security is top priority.
With the tips above, we’re confident that you’ll be able to have fun and still stay safe when gaming online!