If you have seen any of the headlines about online gaming over the last few months, you’ve probably wondered how secure your game or computer actually is. After all, according to many news sources, gamers are a prime target for hackers, scammers, and even international terrorist organizations.
Whether or not the world of online gaming is a so-called breeding ground for future cybercriminals, as some officials speculate, there is little doubt that game play can create some risks to your identity, your finances, and in some extreme cases, your personal safety. After all, in a business that brings in more than $40 billion annually is bound to attract some attention from less-than-savory elements.
While a certain amount of gaming-related cybercrime is in-game, player vs. player pranks (such as stealing gold from opponents in “World of Warcraft”) there are some more sinister criminals targeting gamers that you should worry about and take steps to protect yourself from. That begins with identifying the most common mistakes that you (and plenty of others) are making when it comes to security, and closing those gaps.
Using Debit Cards to Pay for Games
If you pay to play online games, security experts caution against using debit cards to maintain your account. Why? If someone were to get their hands on your account information, they can clean out your entire account in a matter of minutes — and you aren’t always guaranteed to get that money back. In contrast, using a credit card offers some level of protection. Most credit card issuers limit liability on fraudulent transactions to $50, and depending on when you report the fraud and other factors, you may not even be on the hook for that.
Not Having Antivirus Protection
Of all of the activities you can do on the Internet, gaming is one of the most download-reliant. Every time you download the games themselves, not to mention any mods, game clients, and everything else you need to improve your game play you are opening yourself up to the risk of malware that can wreak havoc on your life. While the majority of games are safe, and using some common sense can prevent you from downloading, say, a keystroke logger that steals every password you enter on your computer and gives criminals access to your bank account, you shouldn’t download a thing before you install a comprehensive Internet security program that protects against viruses, malware, and a host of other potential dangers.
Not Practicing Good Password Management
The password rules that apply to all of your other online accounts apply to online accounts are relevant to online gaming as well. Reusing passwords, using passwords that are easily guessed, and not utilizing two-factor authentication when available are all risky when it comes to playing online. Just imagine what could happen if someone accessed your account with your password. Therefore, use unique passwords for every account, follow password best practices, and if your game offers it, employ two-factor authentication.
Not Securing Wi-Fi
Is your home Wi-Fi locked down with a password? If not, it should be. Playing games on an unsecure network opens up the possibility of hackers viewing everything you do online — and again, stealing your access credentials. If your Wi-Fi connection is accessible without a password, it’s not just your freeloading neighbors you need to worry about, so take a few moments and lock it down.
Phishing is a major concern in the world of online gaming. In one popular scam, hackers trawl online forums and social media sites looking for information on popular technical support and game play queries, and then develop spoofed websites that require users to enter their credentials to get
“help.” Once your username and password are in the hands of the criminals, all bets are off as to what they do with that information. Phishing scams are also common in email. Bottom line? Never enter your login details anywhere without first confirming that you’re on a legitimate and secure site, and stay on top of common scams in your favorite games.
Similar to phishing, social engineering attacks try to get inside their victims’ heads to trick them into handing over everything from passwords to tools used in the game. Many of the techniques used by social engineering scammers in online games are similar to those used on other sites like Facebook and Craigslist, so they should be easy to spot. Bottom line? Be on constant alert, and if anything seems suspect, do some more homework and keep your valuable information to yourself.
As the world of online gaming grows, so will incidents of fraud and cybercrime. Learn how to protect yourself now, and avoid losing more than just a game.