The Digital Risks of Online Gaming

Online gaming is bigger than ever. In the U.S. alone, the online gaming industry is worth more than $2.8 billion, and developers and players continue to find newer, better ways to make money while having fun. Players can record themselves playing and cultivate millions of followers on video sites like YouTube and Twitch; they can sell resources harvested in games to other players; they can become professional gamers and win awards and accolades in global tournaments; and they can lose it all to a smart cybercriminal who gains access to personal data through online games.

Online game security is woefully lax, and it seems few developers are interested in correcting the historic lack of protection for players. Thus, the best way for players to securely enjoy their games is to learn about the technological risks of online gaming and take their own steps to stay safe.

Malware Downloads

Any installable software could contain malware that will destroy a device, but even games that are hosted on the web (and therefore require no download or installation) could cause players to infect their devices. Malicious web users can use online game chatrooms to trick players into visiting unsafe sites or downloading corrupted software. Though choosing to ignore potentially dangerous links or software is smart, players should also consider having a trustworthy internet security suite.

Going anywhere online without some form of security software is irresponsible and unsafe. Internet security software protects against infection from more than 99.9 percent of viruses, worms, and other malware that can seriously damage a device or user. Additionally, top-tier suites often contain other benefits, like spam prevention and parental controls, which may be useful for some gaming households that have younger gamers who might not yet be savvy enough to recognize a questionable link or offer from other gamers.

Compromised Servers

Hackers can infiltrate servers as well as individual devices ? it has happened to EA Games and Yahoo! Games in the past ? which means players must be careful to connect only with safe servers. As soon as a server is infiltrated, any device that joins that network is immediately vulnerable to attack. Though players do not have the power to prevent server subversion, they can protect their own data by having a distinct gaming device not connected to personal information, like social media or bank accounts.

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Coding Insecurities

While online gaming becomes more lucrative, developers are spending less and less time scrutinizing their code. As a result, some code in online games ? particularly game protocols, which tell machines how to communicate with other machines ? are not as secure as it could be. Sometimes, poor coding causes players’ computers to develop glitches and bugs. Though these problems may seem simply inconvenient or annoying, they can make a gamer’s device more susceptible to hacking.

Identity Theft

Some gamers pour their hearts and souls into their online game profile in attempts to connect with fellow players. Unfortunately, including information like name, birthdate, and location is dangerous because malicious web users can steal that data to turn a profit.

Identify theft is often more closely linked with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, but any online profile that contains personal information is a risk.

Virtual Crime

Though crimes like protection rackets, mugging, and prostitution seem more likely to occur in dark alleys than in online games, there are plenty of victims of these offenses who can attest otherwise. Within the gaming community, malicious groups have organized to bully individual players into surrendering virtual and real money for illicit services. Players who experience such behavior in-game are advised to contact admins ? or the game’s customer service ? so they can take appropriate actions against the criminal parties.

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