In a perfect world, you would be playing your favorite online action, shooter, and fantasy games without concern—in a magical world with no hackers, malware, or cyber-attacks. Unfortunately, that world doesn’t exist.
In the real world, pretty much everything you do online is under constant siege and risk of attack. The hackers are always on the prowl looking for people with lucrative online accounts and digital data. And nothing is more frustrating than finding out that the account for your online game has been compromised.
Many online gamers have dozens—if not hundreds–of games on Steam, which are locked by a single account which can be worth hundreds of dollars. There have been a number of high-profile data breaches of gaming platforms, including Steam, Sony Playstation, and Microsoft Xbox.
It’s important for anyone online to be aware of the risks and implement good security tools and practices, but it’s especially crucial for online gaming platforms. If you want to protect your gaming account from cybercriminals, there are many measures you can take to avoid it from happening.
Here are four simple tips to help you avoid some of the most common attacks.
In a phishing attack, a hacker tries to obtain your login credentials through trickery. One of the most common ways they do this is by sending you an email that looks like it’s been sent to you by your online game company. This type of email typically asks you to go provide your username and password to receive a bonus, prize, etc. However, in reality, when you share that information you’re just providing your credentials to the attacker. Once the attacker can log in as you, they can also change your password to lock you out of your own account.
Since phishing attacks are mostly carried out with fake emails, you must be careful when checking yours. No company should ever ask you to share your password under any circumstances. If an email has a link and directs you to log in for some reason, you should be suspicious. You can try to verify if the email is genuine by checking the email headers to make sure it actually came from the vendor. Regardless, though, it’s best if you can call the company yourself or contact them via chat support directly rather than clicking the link in the email.
Malware—viruses, worms, Trojans, and other malicious code—is one of the oldest methods of cyber-attack and it’s still very prevalent today. Once executed on a vulnerable machine, malware can attempt to steal your credentials or take control of your computer or device.
There are various families of malware that primarily target the online gaming community. For instance, Kaspersky Security recently released a report about Steam Stealer, a malware group that targeted Steam users to steal their credentials and gaming assets to sell them for $1,000 a unit.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent a malware attack is to make sure you have a solid antimalware solution on your PC and/or mobile device. You don’t necessarily have to spend money, either. For example, Windows Defender is part of Windows 10 by default, and provides adequate protection against malware. In addition to that, you must never install software from unrecognized links sent via emails, instant messaging, etc.. Instead, only go to the official app store or game store to install the games.
3. Password Cracking
Attackers may try to gain access to your account by simply guessing or cracking your password. Brute force is a trial-and-error method in which a program tries to feed an exhaustive list of passwords to a system in a hope that one will eventually work. Naturally, it’s a tedious and time-consuming process. However, if your password is particularly weak, then it’s possible to crack it with ease.
Some common examples of weak passwords are:
- password123 (predictable, common)
- hotchocolate (uses two common words)
- 123456 (predictable)
The only way to protect yourself from brute force attacks or having an attacker guess your password is to use a strong password that a decryption program can’t crack easily. You can use a password generator such as Awesome Password Generator, or Quicky Password Generator, or use a passphrase that is simpler for you to remember, but much harder to guess or crack.
4. Public Wi-Fi
When you are traveling or simply away from home, public Wi-Fi hotspots are a great way to access your favorite online games. There is a Starbucks or McDonald’s with free Wi-Fi every 200 yards or so, and it seems like a majority of restaurants, bars, etc. offer the service for free. So, why not?
Public Wi-Fi is great. However, it comes with its share of risks. This is because public Wi-Fi is a shared network—shared with a variety of strangers. Because you’re on a shared network, anyone else on the same network can potentially monitor or capture the traffic to and from your device. A cybercriminal could be sitting a few tables away from you in a Starbucks and before you know it, your credentials have been compromised.
It’s best to avoid public Wi-Fi as much as possible as you can never be sure. However, if that’s not an option, then you should at least use a secure network or a VPN (virtual private network). There are a number of great VPN apps for PCs, as well as iOS and Android devices that you can download. Many of these are even free.
You need to be aware that there is a target on your back when you’re online. Whether it’s rare and powerful magic items, your personal information, or the money in your accounts, you have something attackers want. Make sure you at least follow these four tips to avoid the most common attacks and continue gaming online—securely.