Top 5 Threats for an Online Gamer

Be it Candy Crush Saga, EVE Online, QuizUp or World of Tanks, there are risks associated with your gaming online. Know and avert them.

Until recently, gaming was a kind of teenager entertainment. This has changed, and now gaming is reputable and ubiquitous. Almost everyone is a gamer. Be it Candy Crush Saga, EVE Online, QuizUp or World of Tanks, chances are high that you occasionally play some online game. Maybe you don’t use a gaming console or PC and prefer a tablet, or maybe you only spend ten minutes on gaming during your daily commute; that’s not important. You must know the risks associated with your gaming online. Know and avert them. From ordinary cheaters to hackers breaking into game developers’ accounts using the recent Heartbleed exploit, they all affect your gaming, your mood and even your personal finances. Here is the list of 5 major risks threatening everyone involved in online gaming:


5. Phishing

When some scammers send you a fake email with a link to their [also fake] site, which closely resembles Citibank, Facebook or Gmail, it’s called phishing. Criminals aim to defraud you of your login credentials or credit card details and eventually steal your data or even your money. This tactic has also proven to be very effective for attacking gamers. Criminals build a fake site of some online game and urge gamers to “change their password” or “validate the account”, threatening to block the gamer’s account if s/he won’t comply. Then hackers could steal your gaming account and resell it on the black market.

Solution: Never click a link in an email. Open your web browser, type in the game website yourself, login to your account and perform any checks/confirmations you want to perform. Also use online protection, which prevents your browser from opening fake sites.

4. Bullying

Almost every online game includes some form of chatting nowadays. You can talk to other gamers using a headset or a good, old textbox in the corner of your screen. For some games, such form of communication between team members is crucial. Unfortunately, this tool is also widely misused. In the heat of the online battle, you may hear some cursing, or a plain insult. Because most games are highly competitive, it’s always tempting to humiliate the loser of the current episode, but some players will cross all borders doing that and constantly bully other players. In some games, especially the ones dedicated to “virtual life” of online characters, such chats may also become a place of uncomfortable talk regarding private subjects.

Solution: Immediately block any offender; don’t play or chat with him/her and report his/her nickname to the game abuse team. Never reveal your real identity or personal details to your gaming partners. If your kids are playing, teach them to discuss such incidents with parents and make sure they are well aware that the “stranger-danger” principle is highly applicable in online games, too.

3. Cheaters and fraudsters

Trading of in-game goods outside of the official game marketplace dramatically increases your chances of being deceived.

Depending on the game type and rules, there are multiple ways to cheat – some are considered legitimate or semi-legitimate; some are not. Among other types of cheats, the worst ones are using modified gaming clients, or even bots, to play in better condition than ordinary players – faster, more precisely, etc. Also, some players utilize errors they discover in the game server’s code to gain an advantage in-game. Other ways to cheat are fixed games, using virtual gangs to rob novice players, or some kind of virtual fraud. When it comes to in-game economy, centuries-old fraud schemes sometimes come to life. You may encounter a person offering you some inventory or an in-game advantage for a discounted price, but such offers often turn out to be a scam.

Solution: If some offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t accept suspicious offers from strangers. If you notice someone progressing too fast over the game, report it to the support team. Most online games have strict regulations and promptly ban cheaters from a game.

2. Character / inventory theft

Criminals may target one of four: in-game resources, well-developed game characters, paid game accounts or associated credit card data itself. The latter one might be hard to target, but others may be stolen from you in multiple ways: phishing, special password-stealing malware, some kind of in-game fraud and so on. The key point is – the better character or account you have, the higher chance that criminals will target you personally. This is especially relevant for well-developed games with a huge, loyal (and paying) audience worldwide.

Solution: As you progress in-game, you must be more and more cautious with your account. Setup two-factor authentication for the account, use complex and unique passwords for your in-game account and your primary email address, utilize strong security solution for your device and watch out for phishing mails and other attempts to swindle your credentials.

1. Computer or smartphone compromise

Gamers are especially susceptible to criminals’ attempts to infect their devices with a malware. In addition to other tricks, which work for the general audience, hackers could try to target gamers with fake “game updates” or “game utilities” helping to progress you thru a game or customize it. Malicious apps could be spread via phishing, in-game communications, as attachments on gamers’ forums or chat rooms, etc. In some exceptional cases, malware could be spread via legitimate game update mechanisms, too. Some of this malware is game-oriented; it steals gamers’ credentials or in-game goods. But it may pursue other goals, as well – stealing banking accounts; making your PC, Mac or smartphone a part of the botnet; mining Bitcoins; and so on.

Solution: Aforementioned malware is the reason why gamers always need a fully updated device with the most recent patches from OS vendors and the strongest internet security suite available. Some solutions of this kind, e.g. Kaspersky Internet Security – Multi-Device, protect you against malware and phishing and also include a special “gaming mode“, which won’t slow down your computer while playing.