Online Gaming Security
“It’s just a game, right?”
Well, sort of….
Whether for yourself or your kids, Online gaming is for fun and recreation. But just because it isn’t an obvious danger spot like a bank or credit card website doesn’t mean it’s not a target of various forms of hacking and abuse. Sometimes the deviant behavior is meant to simply ruin the game for you. Sometimes it actually bleeds over into the more devastating aspects of your online identity and finances. The dangers are real and vigilance is required…even though it’s just a game.
Think about it: Online gaming often involves interaction with strangers (other players who play along with you via an internet or cell-phone connection) and can often involve spending real money to purchase various in-game benefits. This combination of real money (obviously linked to real financial accounts) and strangers about whom you know nothing (even their names are most often aliases) raises some obvious concerns.
In this article, we’d like to offer some broad advice for online gamers, whether they be serious, multiplayer, role-playing gamers or casual Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga gamers. Though some of this advice will be gaming specific, as with all online privacy and security, much will sound very familiar as many of the weak points targeted by hackers are the same whether you’re banking, gaming, or shopping online.
1. It seems that every security article ever written talks about phishing, but at the risk of being redundant: Never click on a link in an email asking you to update your profile, reset your password, etc. Just don’t do it. Use your web browser or your gaming app to be sure you are visiting the official game site. Far too often, phishing emails allow scammers to steal your passwords the easy way by “inviting” you to type them into their website.
2. Be very cautious when downloading game related apps or updates. What may appear to be a “game utility” (allowing you to customize the game or enhance your play), a “cheat,” or a legitimate update may in fact be a hacker’s way of getting you to download malware onto your system. Once in, that malware may target your in-game abilities, goods, or account. It can also, of course, target prizes in the real world. Obviously, official app stores or updates offered from a game’s official website are safest. Game forums or what may be offered by a fellow player should be viewed with greater suspicion.
This is also a good place to remind you to make sure your device is always updated with the most recent security patches, both for your operating system and the game itself, and that you are running a good antivirus software.
3. Stay away from illegal versions of a game or from jailbreaking your device to install unauthorized games. A file that allows you to play without a license or is a blackmarket version of the game is a prime opportunity for a hacker to insert malware. Of course, it’s also just plain illegal.
4. Take care in your social interactions while gaming. Many games offer live chat or even the ability to speak to other players via a headset. While this certainly adds to the fun, it also puts you “in the room” with people you know nothing about. Be sure not to give away any personal information (real name, address, etc.) and be very cautious about any other player who encourages you to download specific applications: hackers use social pressure like this to get users to download malware.
5. Just like anywhere else, use strong passwords. Don’t use the same password for multiple games. Use two-factor authentication whenever offered or possible.
6. Finally, it’s an unfortunate fact that bullying has become a part of online gaming. Extortion, harassment, and humiliating other players in online games ruins the fun for the targeted player and can lead to more dangerous/illegal activities. Certainly make sure you never participate in online bullying and if situations escalate inside an online game with other players where you become the target, don’t put up with it or fight back. Block the offender from communicating with you and step away from the situation.
When used properly and with these security principles in mind, gaming can be a healthy, enjoyable activity that can even have some real-world benefits (for example, see this TED talk by Jane McGonigal). So enjoy! But enjoy wisely.