Cybersecurity for gamers: 3 steps to stay safe

How to stay safe while playing online

The gaming industry is a massive contributor to the economy, bigger than most other entertainment sectors combined. Billions of us worldwide play games – whether it’s the latest triple-A console smash hit, or a quick diversion on our cellphones.

But as games increasingly proliferate, and as many of their functionalities migrate online, it’s more important than ever to bear in mind the key elements of keeping safe while playing. There are a whole host of risks out there for gamers, whether they’re the most dedicated and committed or simply casual players, to encounter. 

Staying safe and being aware of the risks involved is a key component of making sure you don’t fall victim. That’s increasingly important as games incorporate in-app purchases which are linked to personal bank accounts, meaning falling foul of hackers and attackers in a game can result in real-life cash being drained from your accounts.

Avoid your credentials being stolen

A major component of the illicit trade around games in 2020 involves the trading and selling of compromised accounts. You’ve spent hours investing your time, energy and potentially money into a game only to find that the account itself has been stolen by a cybercriminal and resold to someone who wants a head start.

The way to avoid this happening is to make sure you’re clearly delineating what you do in game from what you do in real life. Too many of us share passwords across accounts and tie elements of our real life into games – including bank details. Try to use separate, distinct passwords for your gaming accounts and things like banks, otherwise a cybercriminal that manages to gain access to your gaming data could end up with the keys to the kingdom.

Also beware of simple scams within or outside games. It can be tempting to try and buy access to cheats that allow you extra gold or the power up you’ve been waiting and slaving for, but the people selling it are often scammers content to try and steal your money while not giving you access to the prize. Be particularly wary of any power up or cheat that requires the person giving it to you to gain access to your account. You don’t know what they’re doing while they’re there.

Buy legitimate copies

With triple-A titles costing a minimum of $60, gaming can be an expensive hobby. But relying on cracked or hacked versions of games that get you access for free can be a risky enterprise. 

Too many versions of games that purport to give players access for nothing end up being viruses or malware. Some games even purposely make you download malware; one example, called Sad Satan, was notorious for tricking people. 

This includes third party boosts, too. Many of them hide ransomware inside that can then leave you forking out more than the price of a game to end up with your data back.

Be wary of app stores

Just as with any sort of software, you’ll want to be careful to ensure that you’re downloading official versions of games from proper app stores. But also be aware that some malware can slip through the net, particularly on the Google Play Store.

Use your judgment: read reviews of the game and deploy a little literacy to make sure the game you’re downloading is in fact the one you want, and not one that looks or sounds a lot like the main title you want. 

In all cases, it’s important to make sure you keep your wits about you to mitigate any potential threats. Gaming for some is more than a hobby, and the design of games is specifically tailored to get you into a state called “flow,” where you make quick decisions against your better judgment. Be aware of this, and be wary of the risks that could come up – and you can stay a safe gamer.

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