You’ve splashed out on a gaming powerhouse, capable of rendering the latest titles in Ultra. You’ve also got hundreds – even thousands – of dollars and hours invested in your Steam or Origin account.
Sound like you? Congratulations, you’re one of the most sought-after targets for hackers. Online gaming accounts now hold a wealth of personal information, including credit card details and other identifying information.
Each day, millions of username and password combinations for gaming services are being spilled online, becoming some of the most in-demand account types within the hacking community.
These can be obtained through a variety of means, with a growing amount stolen via targeted scams: bogus cheats, infected mods and a host of other wily methods.
So, how do you ensure you’re doing your gaming safely? Read on!
Start with the basics
Pick out a comprehensive antivirus utility that won’t bombard you with popups or heavily police common game behaviours, like a change in your display resolution. This way, you won’t be tempted to disable it mid-game – or permanently.
Next, be very aware of how phishers target gaming services and communities. A [password manager][pwordman] is a great way to keep track of your usernames and passwords across multiple services.
Lastly, turn on two-factor authentication, for example SteamGuard for your Steam account, or 2FA on your GoG Galaxy account. If your account is filled with valuable games, the extra inconvenience you’ll sometimes encounter while logging in will pale in comparison to that added layer of security.
1. Trade mindfully
While a great way to share cheats, hints and advice, some users on gaming forums and other communities (such as Steam) might not have your best interests at heart.
Be wary of ‘too-good-to-be-true’ bargain item trading in chats, which can take the form of tempting links to browser exploits or phishing sites that might require you to “log in” to retrieve your items.
eBay can also play host to traps for gamers, with auctions for aftermarket game codes promising massively discounted prices. However, this can be an easy way to part keen gamers of their money via fake codes, or pre-used codes. For these reasons, even eBay itself discourages both buying and selling of game codes using their marketplace. Take their advice!
Choose Your Gamertags and usernames wisely Ensure that any usernames or gamertags you’re using – as well as your profile on social gaming platforms – isn’t giving away too much personal information.
Personal details can make it easier for ‘spear phishing’, a type of targeted social engineering scam that makes use of details about you that are readily available online. In this way, an attacker can lay especially tempting bait that mentions your workplace, friends, family or even your bank.
It’s especially important to guard your full name from public gaming communities: this bit of information can make it easy for attackers to start digging up more (via your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social accounts).
2. Mod with care
Mods created by 3rd party developers can bring new items, graphical and gameplay improvements, as well as new features.
However, some mods from untrustworthy sources could also be packing some unexpected additions, such as rootkits, trojans, keyloggers or other malware. Try to get your mods from community sites with rating and review systems, rather than private download links from forums or Steam chats.
3. Keep your guard up
Massively multiplayer online games are a great way to expand your horizons and meet interesting new people, play cooperatively and more. However, keep your guard up and remember that despite the atmosphere, you’re still hanging out with strangers.
In general, avoid revealing personal details. If you must share details, stick to general facts about you.
Beware of other players who seem to share too many of their own personal details: while they might just be naive, many scammers also invent personas and deliberately overshare information in the hopes that others in the group will trust them and be prompted to share, too.
Remember that Internet security common sense applies to gaming, too. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to safeguarding your investment… and leisure time!