Cybercriminals Target Gamers with Malicious Content and Ad Fraud

In the last couple of decades or so, gaming has progressed from obscure to mainstream. Have the cybercriminals noticed? You bet!

Even a 30-minute session in the afternoon is enough to fall right into one of their traps. If you want to stay safe, it all starts with getting a solid education on the various dangers that sneak up on gamers who don’t know any better.

1. Software vulnerabilities

Unless the game you’re playing is browser-based, there’s bound to be some software to install. It can very well contain exploitable software vulnerabilities.

Although the developers release a fix as soon as they notice the issue, in the meantime, you’re vulnerable to whoever chooses to exploit it. And that’s not the worst-case scenario either. A vulnerability could remain present for prolonged periods of time without anyone being the wiser (except for hackers). It could come in the form of a system backdoor or even a way to charge your credit card behind your back.

The solution is to install updates as soon as they’re released. Of course, you should also think twice before installing a game altogether. Is it coming from a reputable developer? If not, it may be worth having a separate machine for the exclusive purpose of gaming if you still want to experience it.

2. Cheating and fraud

A game is all about winning, right? Hence, many players resort to illegitimate means of getting ahead. That includes installing modified clients, using bots, or even buying in-game inventory or currency with real money from third-party vendors.

It goes without saying, but installing anything not approved by the official developers is asking for trouble. You never know what malware could be hidden inside. And if you attempt trading real money for in-game currency or items, the person you’re dealing with may not always uphold their end of the bargain.

In the end, you should always assess the risk/reward ratio that comes from hacks and cheats. Also, consider the traps listed above. But even if you succeed, you might very well get banned from the game if developers caught you. Is it worth it? You be the judge.

3. Phishing

If you play an MMORPG game, the more you level up your character, the more interest hackers will take in your account.

As you accumulate impressive amounts of gold and gear, it doesn’t take long for someone to notice and develop a desire to claim it as their own. To this end, the jealous folks can employ various means of snatching your login credentials, including phishing.

For instance, you may receive an email that’s prompting you to change your password because it was compromised. The problem? It’s a lie. The real administrators didn’t send the email, and the links lead you to a fake login page. Hackers had designed both the email and website to harvest your password.

Therefore, always question who the emails are coming from. Never click on any links people send you via email. Visit the website directly through the URL bar in your browser instead.

To be extra safe, install a VPN, and always use it when logging in from outside of your home network. That way, you can prevent someone from intercepting your login data through a compromised WiFi hotspot.

4. Ad fraud

Streamers and video content publishers depend on ad-generated revenue. Due to this, it’s not hard to understand why some may be interested in resorting to illegitimate ways of increasing the view count of their content.

For instance, they may attempt to distribute malware that generates views. You can catch one of them red-handed by monitoring your network for irregularities. A sudden spike in traffic could be an indicator that something sinister is going on.

While you’re at it, keep your software up-to-date and run an antivirus scan every once in a while. It ensures that your system is running optimally and that it’s malware-free.

5. Stalking and bullying

In the heat of competition, matters escalate to a personal level. Since in-game messaging is the norm nowadays, there is a potential to be exposed to harassment, stalking, and bullying. It is particularly true in case you use voice messaging.

It is not uncommon to hear a tame insult or two upon defeating an opponent in a way they consider to be “dishonorable” or “uninspired.” But someone may very well cross the line and go after you in the real-life.

You should react to this by blocking the offender immediately and reporting their inappropriate conduct to the moderators of the game. As a preventive measure, you should never use any personally identifiable information on your profile. Don’t engage in a verbal conflict either – it may only serve to escalate things further.

Have fun but stay safe

While gaming tends to be an activity reserved for leisure time, cybercriminals never rest. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of danger and take the steps necessary to protect yourself.

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