With roughly 2.3 billion gamers across the globe, video gaming is now the largest entertainment industry in the world. But while online gaming is a fun, highly popular pastime, it can also present a number of cyber security risks to unsuspecting users.
From personal and financial data to in-game items and cryptocurrency, there are a range of assets that can fetch significant real-world prices for cybercriminals – and online gamers often trust as much of their personal information to gaming platforms as they do when online shopping. A moderator for RuneScape recently stole billions in virtual money from players, with a real-world value of $100,000.
To help, the experts at ESET have put together a list of 10 tips for staying safe when online gaming:
1. Keep your authentication game strong
Password reuse is a common issue in online game, as gamers often need to manage accounts for multiple platforms, like Steam and Origin, and for individual games themselves. This can result in the use of duplicate, or easy to remember but weak, passwords that are easy for hackers to breach.
To prevent this from happening, ensure you choose a strong password. If the platform or game has a two-factor authentication option, enable that for your account and create a password of at least 12 characters. If two-factor authentication is not available, or you choose not to use it, choose a password of at least 16 characters.
In either case, choosing a phrase consisting of several words (that aren’t too common) like a book or song title, song lyrics or similar, will make your password easier to remember. Finally, ensure you have a different password for every account or game. If you’re worried you won’t remember them all, consider using a password managing service to help.
2. Be careful what you click on
From unofficial cheat codes to unfamiliar links, be wary of downloading anything from an unknown source. These are unlikely to work and may contain some form of malware. Likewise, only download official upgrades and levels. Phishing campaigns are frequently targeted towards online gamers using popular games, and can even pose as a friend in an attempt to send malicious links via chat platforms.
3. Guard your personal data
Often player accounts are most valuable to the cybercriminal, and hence the most highly targeted. From geotargeting to monthly payment subscriptions, online and mobile games can collect large quantities of data about their users. This provides hackers with a wealth of opportunities to steal personal information such as your location, online activity, and financial details.
Avoid providing too many personal details where possible, and make sure you verify the legitimacy of any platform or game you engage with. Delete all personal details from consoles and PCs when you pass them on to others, are using a public device, or are throwing your device away.
4. Protect your email
You might not think your email is as important as your bank details, but it can still be used by cybercriminals to attempt a breach. Be sure to protect your contact details such as email, phone number or social media accounts as carefully as possible. Never give away your email address to unauthorised sources, as you might then receive spam or emails that contain malware.
5. Keep your real name under lock and key
Online gaming can expose you to a wide range of strangers, and you can’t always verify if everyone you interact with is trustworthy. Beware of who you talk to and what you say to other game players. Never reveal any personal information such as your full name, email, school or workplace, and choose a username that is completely different to your real name. In addition, never put a clue to your date of birth in a username or add personal details to your online profile or avatar.
6. Secure your mobile devices
Many online gamers now use mobile apps to play – giving hackers the opportunity to breach vulnerable mobile devices. Unwanted or infected applications might cause harm by exploiting your phone’s data or functions. However, there are many kinds of mobile security solutions, such as antivirus, anti-phishing and proactive anti-theft protection, with options for both Android and Apple.
7. Make the most of multi-factor authentication
Many games and platforms offer options for two-factor authentication. This will add an extra step to the login process, sending a code to either a registered email or phone number, or a predetermined code, to ensure you remain protected in the event someone obtains or guesses your password.
8. Watch out for bad behaviour
Report any inappropriate behaviour, bullying or abuse you see online to game administrators or software makers through their official reporting procedures (which they should always have). See if the game can block abusive players directly, and take steps to remove yourself from any unpleasant situations.
9. Ensure extra security for children
If you are a parent, guardian, or teacher, it’s highly important to establish appropriate parental controls to prevent children from entering unknown pages or links. You should also educate children about basic rules and tips of cyber security to suit their age, and carefully monitor what young children in your care are accessing on the internet, so you can ensure they’re staying safe at all times. Some cyber security solutions even provide parental controls as part of their service.
Never allow your children to meet up with people they have met only online.
10. Keep your devices updated
Whatever device you use for online gaming, outdated software can provide an array of vulnerabilities for cyber criminals to attack. To avoid a breach, it’s vital to ensure all your devices’ operating systems, antivirus software and critical applications are properly installed and kept fully up-to-date.
Play safe and have fun
Online gaming should be a fun, safe pastime you and your family can enjoy worry-free. A comprehensive, multi-device security solution such as ESET’s Smart Security Premium is a great way to stay protected against malicious online activity, ensure the apps you download are safe, and unmask potentially unwanted applications.