The dark side of online gaming

  • Cybercriminals creating game hacks with download links or corrupt programs that contain malware
  • Games linked to social networking accounts could lead to invasion of privacy and personal info theft

The dark side of online gamingTHE online gaming community has been growing steadily in recent years, extending its reach and going beyond gaming on personal computers (PCs) to include smart devices.
In a poll conducted by Trend Micro Malaysia on its Facebook page recently, 75% of respondents said they play games online. Of this, 41% play games regularly at least twice a week and 55% are social media gamers, integrating social networking into their gaming experience.
Online gaming has caused new concerns among gamers on the rising social and technological risks, Trend Micro said in a statement.
Technological risks
Cybercriminals are able to exploit vulnerabilities in web and mobile systems, creating game hacks with download links or corrupt programs that contain trojans, spyware, viruses or worms hidden in the game files, leading to a system infection.
Malicious individuals could also take advantage of the social networks associated with online games to entice you to visit bogus websites or open email attachments that contain malicious software that can be used for illicit purposes.
Gamers are also susceptible to financial theft that can happen via scams when players purchase items via Real Money Trading (RMT).
Social risks
Due to the nature of the highly progressive online social gaming trend and system vulnerabilities, some of the games linked to social networking accounts could lead to invasion of privacy and personal information theft.
Information can be gathered from the gaming profiles created and used, to steal your identity to establish accounts in your name or used to access your existing financial accounts.
There are also concerns for parents as underage gamers can be exposed to excessive suggestive or foul language and imagery by their fellow gamers.
Level up and play smart
It is interesting to note that an estimated 53% of the Trend Micro poll respondents had inadvertently clicked on a compromised link, with 44% downloading a virus through direct download sites.
Compromised links connected to mobile games apps are the second highest threat to gamers, Trend Micro said.
“Threats on computers, smart devices, and applications have gone full throttle this year. Mobile and web-based threats are victimising users with fake banking apps and FakeAV (antivirus) distributed through social engineering schemes,” said Goh Chee Hoh, South-East Asia managing director at Trend Micro Inc.
The dark side of online gaming“Cybercriminals have found more sophisticated ways to bypass security, not just through malicious applications anymore – the Android ‘Master Key’ vulnerability is a key threat today.
“Online gaming threats tend to have the same aim as any other cyber threat: To steal your personal and financial information. No matter what device you use, whether you’re more of a mobile or web user, you need to scrutinise your computing habits and look into vulnerability patching and extending mobile protection to include more than just app scanning,” Goh (pic) added.
Trend Micro said users can get the most out of their gaming experience by following these steps:

  • Avoid suspicious players: Casual games are rife with badly behaving players; stay away from them.
  • Refrain from ‘befriending’ strangers: As much as possible, only add players that you know in real life.
  • Separate your gaming and social lives: Taking control of the social networking permissions of your game accounts will protect your real identity and refrain from sharing too much personal information online.
  • Try not to purchase virtual goods with real money: Only purchase in-game premiums if you’re sure that you can control your spending.
  • Protect your account password: Ensure that your password is easy to remember but hard to guess.
  • Use authenticators when applicable: Some Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) offer authenticators to prove to the system that you are really who you are as an added layer of protection.
  • Download from trustworthy game sites: Only install apps and games from official stores associated with your platforms of choice whether it’s the Apple App Store, Android Market and direct download game sites.
  • Install a full-scale security solution: Avoid storing personal information on gaming devices and consider using security software that protects PCs, tablets and smartphones as well.

Related Stories:
As online shopping trend rises, so do related cyber-threats
Android ‘Master Key’ vulnerability affects 99% of devices
Cybercriminals setting their sights on gamers: Kaspersky
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