In the modern gaming era where every app wants to connect with your social media accounts, and store your credit card for microtransactions, the need for security practices amongst gamers is stronger than ever.
In this article, we’re going to run through some security tips, so you can game worry-free of your credit card bill being full of weird adult website subscriptions (unless those are actually yours, in which case, no judgement).
Online Gaming Security Tips
Enable 2FA where possible
Two-factor authentication is a great security method, and many game distribution platforms have the feature built-in. Steam offers Steam Guard, which will send either a code to your email, or the Steam Mobile app on your smartphone.
Blizzard at one point offered physical 2FA authenticators, but stopped manufacturing them in 2019, and now uses mobile phone authentication like Steam. Physical Blizzard authenticators still work for people who own them, Blizzard just no longer manufactures new ones.
EA Origin, GOG, and pretty much every other digital game distributor offers 2FA as well. It’s a proven reliable method of securing your account.
Stay on top of data breaches
Because your personal information, including credit card details, are saved on your accounts, whether it’s Google Play, Steam, or any other website that stores information, you need to be aware as soon as data breaches happen, so you can take measures to prevent your information from being stolen. For more information, you can read this helpful article on understanding credit card theft.
Basically just subscribe to websites like Have I Been Pwned? that release information on all the latest data breaches, and can scan data breach lists for your personal information to alert you if your data has been stolen. Google Chrome also has built-in security measures that can automatically alert you if it detects that your password or other account details are part of a data breach.
Don’t disable antivirus for a ‘performance boost’
This bad bit of information still infiltrates gaming circles, and it completely boggles my mind. Here’s a quick question you can ask yourself to determine whether you should disable your antivirus while gaming – do viruses stop affecting your computer while you’re gaming?
Here’s the thing. The idea of disabling antivirus software for a performance boost in your games is very outdated, and comes from an era when antivirus software did actually use tons of your computer’s resources. Yeah, back in ~2008, a background scan could eat up like 100% of your CPU, when 4GB of RAM and a 2.4ghz CPU was “high end”.
But this is 2020. It is literally no longer a concern, unless your PC is a literal dinosaur. Antivirus software should have absolutely minimal impact on your PC performance, and furthermore, most AV software includes “Silent” or “Gaming Mode” features that limit the AV’s background activity even further while gaming.
Additionally, because a lot of online games are run on private servers, it’s not uncommon for shady server owners to push viruses onto your computer through the server’s welcome screen, or when automatically transferring modded game files to you for playing on a modded game server.
Be aware of common scam types
Contrary to Hollywood, hacking isn’t some nerds staring at a Matrix-like terminal while rapidly typing commands to “hack” a network. That’s a load of crap, and in my opinion, those Hollywood depictions of “hacking” have done nothing but serve misinformation to the general public about how computer security works.
Social engineering is the most common “hacking” technique, and can range from phishing emails, to a stranger randomly chatting you and asking the name of your favourite pet and what street you grew up on (your security questions, duh). The official Steam sub-Reddit maintains a great list of the most common scam types used to steal gamer’s information.
Use unique passwords
Look, all that nonsense about using “strong”, complex passwords is just that – nonsense. It’s a security blanket, made to provide the illusion of being secure. Adding a bunch of symbols to your [email protected]$w0rd adds maybe a few minutes of time it takes to crack your password using modern brute-force techniques.
To actually be safe, and not just feel safe, you need to use unique passwords across all your accounts, along with 2FA mentioned above, and possibly an encrypted password manager. To spell it out simply, don’t use the same password for more than one account. If you use the same password for Steam, Facebook, Spotify, and Gmail, you’re pretty much begging to have your entire identity stolen. Is that blaming the victim? Stop whining, smarten up.
Always log out of your account on shared machines
Our final tip, if you access any of your gaming accounts from an internet cafe (or any personal account on any website, for that matter), LOG OUT OF THE ACCOUNT BEFORE LEAVING. If I have to explain why, your internet privileges should be summarily revoked.