Online entertainment has evolved in the past decade. Gamers often spend many hours online. They interact with unfamiliar people, buy online content, and seek out game-related information. Staying on the cutting edge in this way can keep you in the loop — but it can also make you a target for cybercriminals.
Unfortunately, your online footprint can increase the chance of your personal information being exposed. In turn, leaked personal information can expose gamers to risks including:
- Identity theft;
- Data mining;
- Online predators.
Cybercriminals and the Gaming Economy: The Risks of Online Gaming
Cybercriminals can victimize gamers through many different methods. Gamers must be aware of these to protect their privacy.
Camera and Microphone Access
If a hacker can gain remote access to your device, they may be able to operate the device’s camera and microphone. They can do this by tricking you into clicking on a link that embeds spyware on your device.
You can take action to prevent this from happening. Be wary of suspicious links and messages, use a cover for your camera, and unplug peripheral devices when they are not in use.
If a hacker can gain access to your location tracking data, they can use it to stalk you or to more effectively scam you based on your interests. This can be done through spyware, spying apps, or even a review of your public check-ins.
Spyware on mobile devices can be difficult to detect. It is generally helpful to use a security app to identify it. You should also turn off location tracking software on your mobile devices and applications whenever possible.
Poorly Protected Servers
Online games are hosted on servers, and not all servers are created equal. In theory, anyone can set up a server with minimal equipment. If a server is compromised, consoles or gaming PCs connected to it can be compromised as well.
Consider what security measures are in place for servers that you frequent. Be careful with your data, regardless of the server’s reputation. There is always some risk that your device could become compromised when it is connected to a server.
Hackers can intercept your information when you are using unsecured Wi-Fi. They may use methods such as man-in-the-middle attacks and packet sniffing.
You can prevent leaking your information on unsecured networks by not accessing any sensitive data on one, encrypting your communications, and using a VPN.
Gaming Without a Worry: What You Can Do to Prevent Cyberattacks
Although gamers face many cybersecurity risks, there are solutions available that can reduce your risk. Many of these solutions have benefits beyond preventing cyberattacks, such as improving connectivity.
Update Applications Frequently
Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving. As such, applications often use security patches to address new vulnerabilities. If you do not update your applications, you will miss out on these security measures. The application will typically alert you when an update is available.
Update Passcodes Regularly
It is always a good idea to ensure that you are using unique, complex passwords for your games, platforms, and applications. You will enjoy even greater security if you regularly change your passwords. Ideally, passwords should be updated every two to three months.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) offers a higher barrier to entry for protected information. Rather than only prompting you for a password, a device protected by two-factor authentication may prompt you for both a password and a fingerprint scan. 2FA is offered as an option on a variety of devices, platforms, and games.
Use a VPN
A VPN is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in online security. Virtual private networks protect your privacy by encrypting your data and masking your IP address.
Avoid Visiting Unverified Sites
Some scammers may use unverified websites to give you false information or to trick you into clicking on harmful links. To avoid scams, you should be on alert for the following red flags:
- The URL says “HTTP” rather than “HTTPS”;
- The website appears unprofessional (e.g. poor grammar and spelling);
- The website is filled with urgent calls to action;
- The website features suspicious links.
If you are suspicious of a website, check whether they have a social media presence. Research any online reviews or articles regarding their reputation.
Only Purchase Items From Credible Vendors
Gaming is a lucrative industry. Many vendors want to sell games, accessories, in-app purchases, and more. Scammers sometimes take advantage of this booming industry through false or misleading advertisements. To avoid such scams, you should be wary of the following:
- Too-good-to-be-true deals;
- A seller conveying a sense of urgency;
- Unprofessional advertisements, platforms, or communications;
- A seller who wants you to give them sensitive information, such as your credit card number.
The following measures can help you avoid dishonest vendors:
- Only buy things on a platform that you trust;
- Do not buy things through direct messages;
- Use a third-party payment system;
- Research the credibility of a vendor if you are unsure.
Limit Who You Connect With
Connecting with others is a huge part of the online gaming space. The friendships you develop and the knowledge and resources you share can be very fulfilling and valuable. But not everyone you meet online will have honest intentions.
Someone offering you a torrent file for an open-source indie game may simply be helpful. They could also be tricking you into downloading malware. You should be careful during online interactions, especially if the other person is trying to convince you to download or click on something.
Install Reliable Security Software
Remember to have reliable security software installed on your devices. There are many types of security software to consider:
Antivirus software comes in many varieties, though most are designed to detect and remove software viruses. Some solutions continually monitor your system for any risks inform users when they are entering sites that may pose a risk to their device.
You’ll likely need anti-spyware software to identify and remove spyware from your gaming devices. This will help you maintain your online privacy and protect your accounts.
A firewall can protect your network by blocking unwanted traffic and stopping malware from impacting your devices.
VPNs can improve security for gamers. Popular VPN software such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN can provide extra security to keep your data safe while gaming.
Some security solutions are specifically designed with gamers in mind. These may have features for protecting your gaming accounts, among other benefits. It is important to understand your personal security needs and to research software before downloading it. Finding the right tools for you can greatly improve your online security while gaming.