Many of the most popular video games played today are no longer confined to a console, but rather played online for a more interactive experience.
Online gaming creates an infinite arena of play where gamers can form relationships with other players. The social aspect is a major driver in the rise of online gaming. Entirely hosted on a gamer’s server, there are many benefits to this type of play: there’s no need for software upgrades or need to purchase new software, and gamers have the ability to play on their mobile phones or wherever they are.
However; with this more interactive experience comes to some hidden dangers that many gamers need to be aware of. Here are the top three security threats to gamers, and how to avoid them.
Ransomware is nothing new to the world of cybercrime, but it’s gaining in its prevalence in the online gaming arena. Like other forms of malware, ransomware gets into gamer’s systems through untrusted sites or attachments. As ransomware becomes more sophisticated, PCMag warns, the risk to gamers only increases.
The premise of ransomware is that a hacker will hold your files “ransom” until an amount of money is paid. It’s a common hack used in other industries as well.
Just a few years ago, over 40 games were affected by the popular ransomware TeslaCrypt, where users were asked to pay at least $500 in Bitcoins to unlock encrypted files. The malware was catching people out at a website hosted by WordPress. Once a machine is infected, “the malware looks for 185 different file extensions,” seeking out files relating to popular video games, and online services like Steam that would give people access to games.
Some ways to protect yourself against ransomware:
- Install security software
- Keep all apps and operating system up to date
- Avoid visiting suspicious/unknown sites
- Never open email attachments/ links shared to you by other gamers you don’t know
- Frequently back up files online and off (store saved games to the cloud)
Password stealers are pieces of malicious code that work to steal access credentials for gamers/ platforms. The premise is to use deception to trick the user into downloading or installing an app that then infects their system. This is often done via chat messages where one player will ask another to join his/her team, but to do so they must download or install something like a voice communication program. That program, once downloaded, will infect the user’s system.
Two examples of this malware are Win32/PSW.OnLineGames.NNU and Win32/PSW.OnLineGames.OUM. These programs look for specific data of popular games and execute malicious commands from a remote server that tries to destroy any antivirus software in the system. In 2016, the number of detections of the Win32/PSW.OnLineGames threats reached over a quarter million.
To protect yourself against password stealers:
- Never login to a computer you don’t trust
- Maintain up-to-date antivirus software
- Run as a “limited user”
- Use two-factor authentication password protection
- Never download cheat codes/cracks unknown sites/users
Scareware works like many other malware programs, but it attacks victims by way of fake app downloads. Recently, over 30 apps with scareware were discovered in the Google Play Store, many of them game and cheat apps. After downloading these “Trojan apps,” they begin by displaying persistent ads and alerts claiming that your device/data have been infected. At this point, the user is asked to act in some way, either directed to an app store to purchase another app or asked to make a payment.
One of the more popular fake apps that were downloaded by hundreds of thousands of people were fake Minecraft apps that pretended to be cheats. To make sure you’re downloading legitimate apps without scareware:
- Never download apps from unofficial sources
- Read the fine print (i.e. what permissions an app requires to install)
- Read the user reviews
- Google the app first
Unfortunately, the way hackers work in the online gaming world will only continue to evolve and get
smarter. As gamers, it’s important to be in the know, up to date on all software, and always vigilant when communicating with other gamers or visiting gaming sites.