The world of gaming is set to surpass 3 billion users by the end of 2023; across platforms such as consoles, PCs, and personal mobile devices, this group of gamers is increasing steadily as the years go on (up by nearly 1 billion from 2015!). With its growing popularity, the world of gaming is also heavily targeted when it comes to cybersecurity threats. It is important to understand the risks associated with online gaming in order to navigate this world safely so as to continue enjoying the games we love without falling victim to the attacks we hate.
Among the top considerations to take into account when traversing the realm of online gaming are:
-Malware: Though many games downloaded by users of PCs, consoles, and smartphones are legitimate, there is a risk of malware being embedded in them when a user downloads their games from a third-party seller. Additionally, cheat codes have been found to have malicious code included on them. When users download malware inadvertently, they end up making their entire device and possibly other devices connected to the same network vulnerable to cyber attackers.
-Cyberbullying: A major risk of online gaming that is particularly concerning for parents and especially difficult for young users to deal with is cyberbullying. Because these games are often played with individuals who the player does not know, some users find it okay to be abusive toward one another. While the occasional joke about someone’s abilities in a particular game may be in the spirit of fun and just meant to keep the competitive spirit alive among opponents, it can take a turn toward bullying if these conversations become one-sided or if a user becomes cruel and incessant in their commentary. Be sure to talk to young gamers in your home before letting them play games and ensure you are there to help them tackle any rude duelers.
-Doxxing: Doxxing is an elevated form of cyberbullying that puts a gamer at risk of physical harm. This occurs when a malicious person online posts the home address or phone number of another user. This ludicrous action can be motivated by many factors including retaliation, jealousy, harassment, and more.
-Data breaches & PII Leaks: Due to the fact that gamers entrust the various systems used for gaming with some of their most sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, birthdates, login credentials, financial information, and more, cybercriminals often target this industry with data breach attacks. Sometimes these attacks are used to try to force the gaming companies to pay up, and other times, the malicious actors will take the stolen information and sell it on the dark web. This compromised data can also be used to steal users’ identities.
As the highest-grossing industry in the world of entertainment, gaming is clearly very popular (an understatement to say the least). With that, the industry is also heavily targeted by attackers and there are cybersecurity risks to be aware of in order to stay safe while gaming on various platforms, as we’ve seen. Below are some helpful tips to consider to better protect yourself from these vulnerabilities.
-Utilize strong passwords: The fundamental key to strong cybersecurity is good password hygiene. This means using strong, unique passwords for every login credential you make - “strong” meaning that the password is complex and difficult to guess often helped via the use of upper case, lower case, numbers, and symbols. In the world of passwords, “unique” means different from any other password you have. If a password is easily guessed, then you have a vulnerable account; what’s worse is that if the password is not difficult to decipher and that same password (or a very close variation of that password) is used for other accounts you have, you put yourself at a worsened risk of attack. You may be thinking that it is very challenging to remember so many passwords, as it seems that in today’s day and age there is a login credential required for nearly everything out there; however, there are many free password manager databases that you can use to your advantage. A password manager allows you to only be tasked with remembering one complex password in order to access the secure database which includes all of your other strong, unique login information.
-Only play cybersafe games: Be sure to do some digging before hitting download on a game. Check reviews from other players to ensure you are going to be playing the game you had intended to click on and that there are no issues with it.
-Keep devices up-to-date: One of the other building blocks of cybersecurity is to ensure your devices stay updated with the latest and greatest updates available from the manufacturer. Sometimes the creators of the consoles and devices we use will realize that there are security flaws with the current operating system and they will want to push out a new update. Not only does downloading a new update put you in a more secure place when it comes to cybersecurity, but new operating system updates often come with a plethora of new features that are intended to make your gaming experience that much more enjoyable.
-Beware what you share: There are many risk factors that should make a user cautious with what they share. Not only does exposing your PII leave you vulnerable to cyberattack, but it could be used by a bully or malicious actor in the event of a doxxing situation. One way to enjoy the games you love online with other gamers is to have an ambiguous gamer tag - one that does not reveal any personal information about you such as your name or important numbers in your life such as a home address.
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