Secure Gaming

In the world of information security, the gaming scene often slips quietly by, unnoticed. However, with new technologies and high speed internet connections, online gaming is increasing in popularity. Many gamers are now investing large amounts of time and money into online games, and others have seen an opportunity for unethical profit or mischief. Gamers should be aware of the technical and social risks of the pastime, just like in any other area with information security risks. Many are similar to those computer users may have already encountered, but they may not have realised, and there are other risks involved too…

Identity & Personal information

Games were once solitary activities but now many have online communities that communicate during and outside the gaming experience. It is important to be aware that in some less popular commercial software, security protocols may not have been given proper consideration, so you must always be aware of what information you are making available whilst enjoying gaming.

Some malicious individuals may use these security vulnerabilities to exploit the weakest security component: The Human. These people may want to steal your identity, your bank or card details, your personal information or contact minors in an attempt to arrange meetings or trick them into revealing personal information.

There are a number of ways to achieve the above goals:

• Individuals may try to trick you into installing malicious software that they can use to gain access to or control your computer.
• They may trick you into giving details that allow them to access your accounts or computer.
• If a malicious individual can gather information about you from games or other sources, they may be able to establish accounts in your name, resell it, or use it to access your existing accounts.

Malicious Software

Sometimes gamers download files, or connect to servers for online games. If the server has been compromised, computers that connect to it can in turn be compromised. By exploiting vulnerabilities, hackers may be able to control your machine remotely, using it to attack or spam others, install malware or gain access to personal information.

When downloading files, whether they are games, files to help you with games, modifications or plugins, you run the risk of downloading a file that has been compromised or deliberately created with malicious intent. Make sure you download from legitimate, verifiable sites and check the file is safe before opening.

Social

There are a number of facets to the social aspect of information security. Keeping your data, information and more secure is not limited to just protecting from malware or individuals trying to get it onto your system. Malicious individuals may also try social engineering to gain access, and organised crime has seen a rise within the gaming community, with South Korean reports of ‘protection rackets’ where gamers from the criminal organisations threaten other gamers with various negative consequences if they fail to pay virtual or real money for protection.

Another side is that gamers with a strong desire to improve their gameplay or statistics in games can potentially open themselves up to more risks, being more receptive to malicious people or websites offering them helpful items, in-game currency, or assistance.

Also, mobile gaming has been on the rise for a number of years, posing new risks- 6% of adults say their children have made purchases without their knowledge. This raises the question- while we might take precautions with our information ourselves, will others using our devices and accounts do the same, and who has access to these?

Here are Bob’s top 10 tips to follow to maintain good computer security:

1) Use reliable antivirus software and update/scan regularly.
2) Be cautious when downloading files, opening files, or clicking links.
3) Verify the authenticity and security of all files and software before installing, opening or using.
4) Use a firewall. Some games may require exceptions, but the more open your settings are, the higher your chance of a security risk.
5) Backup and secure personal and financial data.
6) Use strong passwords that are hard to guess or crack, and don’t use game details to sign into third party sites, programs or apps (or give them to other people)
7) Keep your software patched and up to date from legitimate sources.
8) Ensure game vendors and download locations are reputable. ‘Free’ downloads (and sometimes even paid downloads) can sometimes conceal malware.
9) If you search for tips or files to improve your gaming experience, make sure you stick to verifiable sites and avoid downloading third party software with unknown sources.
10) Configure your web browsers securely.

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