It seems that in 2020, just about every single one of us is a gamer. Shape-matching games for the little ones, Fortnite for teens, online gambling games for their parents, quizzes and word puzzles for the older generation, the types of games and the target demographics go on and on.
Unfortunately, any pastime that generates large amounts of revenue and attracts people in their droves will also be a beacon to scammers, fraudsters and out-and-out criminals. That’s as true online as it is in the real world, and there are risks attached to gaming, especially to those who might not be fully versed in the nature of cybercrime.
Here, we take a look at some of the dangers that are out there, along with how to ensure you and your loved ones are protected from them.
It’s the most common form of online fraud, and is becoming as prevalent in gaming as it is in banking and ecommerce. In case you are not sure, phishing is when you receive communication that purports to be from some trusted person or company, and you are deceived into divulging personal or confidential information. This might include bank details, passwords and so on.
In the world of gaming, the most common phishing scams are messages telling you there is something wrong with your account and you need to click a link to validate or change your login and password details. The communication will look official, but if you look carefully at the url they are sending you to, you will see it is not quite right. Always treat these sorts of emails with suspicion, and instead, log on to your gaming account from a browser if you genuinely need to make any changes.
Games can present a golden opportunity for hackers to infiltrate your PC or smartphone. This is because of the frequent updates that you receive and install in order to keep the game up to date. Most commonly, these are fakes that are spread using either phishing techniques or through old-fashioned confidence tricks where someone in a gaming chat room offers you a special update that will help you progress in the game.
The best way to avoid this sort of threat is by only installing updates through the game itself or from trusted sources like Google Play or the App Store. However, a word of caution – even legitimate updates have been known to contain malware that has been cleverly added to the code without the game developer’s knowledge, and earlier this year, Google had to remove dozens of infected games from its store. So make sure your antivirus protection is up to scratch.
Risks are not just limited to the potential for theft. Gaming is a social activity, but sometimes that very sociability can lead to danger. If a game requires access to your microphone or camera, it opens up the possibility for someone else to be listening in or watching.
Mitigating this risk is all about choosing your gaming platform with care. The iGaming sector provides a perfect example here. The latest live games are all about that interactive experience, where you can sit at a virtual table with other players and a human dealer. Yet this is a sector that takes security deadly seriously after all, the casino is also handling your money. Reputable casino sites will always have top-notch encryption, and should shout it from the rooftops on their homepage. But whatever type of game you are playing, always check that the url starts https – that “s” on the end is all important and means the page is encrypted.
In this day and age, we all know that bullying is not restricted to the school yard, and that it is something to be taken deadly seriously. An unfortunate side effect of the way games have advanced in recent years to encompass social aspects is that those ever-present chat boxes can be abused.
For sure, tempers can rise in a competitive environment, but there is a significant and obvious difference between someone letting rip with the occasional expletive and using the chat box to make personal, offensive or insulting comments to another gamer.
There’s no reason to put up with it, and the first rule here is not to fan the flames. If somebody starts getting personal, block them from your chat and report them to the admins, it is that simple. Just as important, make sure the younger gamers in your household are aware of the realities of cyberbullying and how to handle it.
Many of today’s games exist in their own virtual universes. Just like in the real world, if you work hard and with dedication, you can progress to acquire in-game wealth and assets. And just like in the real world, if you don’t keep your wits about you, some low-life can come along and steal it all.
In-game theft is more common than you might think. But the solutions are not so different as they are in the real world. If you have a nice house full of expensive belongings, you’ll probably have the most up-to-date mortice lock and a good alarm system. Protect your account in the same way, using complex passwords, two-factor authentication and so on to keep the thieves at bay.