Online games connect us to people around the world, but they also expose us to cybersecurity risks such as phishing attacks, viruses and identity theft. These risks could lead to losses that affect us individually or that affect the organizations and companies to which we are linked.
This article highlights some security risks and precautions you should take to keep your devices and data safe while playing games on your PC or mobile.
It is exactly what it sounds like. Cybercriminals launch phishing attacks to fish for your personal data.
In online games, phishing attacks maliciously gain access to your game accounts to steal your valuables, in-game characters, virtual money, virtual items like wallpapers and stickers, in-game cosmetics and other inventories. Sometimes these attacks take over and sell your account on the black market.
In some cases, attackers go further by using your financial information to make purchases from your account without your knowledge or permission. Cyber criminals will also use personally identifiable information such as your name, date of birth, location or address to impersonate you for their personal gain.
How do cybercriminals phish?
To steal your data, cybercriminals impersonate popular game distributors such as Steam and Origin. They imitate distributor emails, messaging and login pages using the same wording, fonts, logos and signatures to make their messages look legitimate. These messages are sent to players via in-game messaging platforms or emails to urge them to provide voluntary data such as passwords and credit card details.
These phishers also spread phishing links to pages related to counterfeit games. The links usually feature a misspelled domain name or additional subdomains that resemble those of a popular game publisher.
How to protect yourself from phishing attacks
- Keep your personal data private
Game providers will not ask you for personal data or login information, so do not respond to such message requests in personal chat on game platforms or emails.
- Beware of “phishing” links
- Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that allows access to a person’s account only after successfully presenting two forms of authentication. It guarantees the correct identification of the owner of a game account.
If your username and password are compromised but this feature is enabled, you and anyone else trying to access your account will need additional details in addition to your password to log into your account .
Malware is malicious software, hence its name. It performs unauthorized actions on the system in which it is downloaded and installed. For example, it can facilitate direct carrier billing fraud – hijacking your airtime to pay for unsolicited services, or stealing it outright.
Fraudulent payments by malware present in applications represent 41.2% of fraud in South Africa and 53.7% in Côte d’Ivoire. Of the 206,000 mobile malware attacks blocked by Kaspersky solutions for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) region between January and June 2021, more than 14,071 of these attacks originated from Nigeria, 10,697 from Kenya and 5 499 from South Africa.
Malware can also initiate stealing your data and corrupting your files or device, rendering them useless.
How do cybercriminals send malware to gamers?
Malware is distributed in several ways such as infected legitimate files, phishing and Trojans.
- Legit files
Many players like to use cheat codes and modifications (aka mods) to improve their gameplay. These codes and mods are distributed as downloadable files and attackers usually hide malware inside these files to infect the installation device.
Phishing is a common way of spreading malware: attackers imitate publishers of third-party games and apps or files and trick users into downloading them only to have their devices infected with viruses hidden in the source code . These links are shared on websites, social media, and in-game chat rooms.
Hackers upload Trojans to app stores. Trojans are fake versions of popular games or game-related programs that contain malware. Most gamers who install these products don’t know they are hosting malware until they achieve their goal.
How to prevent malware infection
- Beware of “phishing” links.
Check hyperlinks and attached files; check spelling errors in emails and website copies. Even when you are on a legitimate website, do not download pirated software or illegal files.
- Use updated security software
The easiest way to guard against malware infections is to keep the standard security solutions on your device up to date. These solutions include Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, Avast and Avira. You can fix or avoid some security issues by installing updated versions of the game software, so update as soon as possible.
- Put your ears to the ground
Try to follow gaming app reviews to stay informed about the apps you are using or considering using, especially if they are fairly unknown brands.
Ransomware is a type of malware that cybercriminals use to demand ransom from their victims. They encrypt files on a device, rendering those files useless until their demands are met. They usually threaten to withhold or otherwise disclose files.
In South Africa, businesses experience 577 cyberattacks every hour, costing more than $141,416,000 (R2.2 billion) every year. Not only are you at risk of bad actors gaining access to your personal files, but your business or employer is also at risk if you use your work computer for personal activities like gaming.
How do you get ransomware?
- Just like malware
Ransomware attacks in the same way as malware. However, this only affects devices connected to the Internet and when the user opens a download containing ransomware. If your gaming device is connected to Wi-Fi, the ransomware can roam the Wi-Fi network and access all computers connected to it.
- Infected websites.
Ransomware can also attack your device when you visit a gaming website that has been infected with ransomware. It can be downloaded to your computer without your knowledge.
Online games are riddled with scammers and they prey on players’ greed. They can defraud you with your money or game assets by promising character upgrades or improper game advancements.
To avoid getting scammed, avoid micro-transactions with people you don’t trust.