Cyberthreats in Video Games: When Grand Theft Auto gets way too real for PC Gamers

Cyberthreats in Video Games

Gaming is a way of life today. No longer just console-based platforms like the classic Super Nintendo or Sega Megadrive. Today, video games have spawned a whole new culture. They create massive online communities and are carried with us everywhere on our mobile phones as well.

Expectedly, the video game industry is a booming billion-dollar business, with its revenue standing at USD 490b in 2023 – a more than threefold increase since 2017. It is only projected to grow, to an estimated USD 688b in four years’ time. It is no wonder that the video game industry is an increasingly attractive target for hackers – just as cyberthreats to gamers do.

A report by Akamai found that web application and API attacks on the gaming industry have grown by over 167% between 2022 and 2021. And in June 2023, a chain of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks took down servers for Blizzard’s popular Diablo IV online game – just two weeks after the game was released. Cyberattacks are not only targeting individual gamers but also gaming platforms and developers. So what do PC gamers need to know about the main strategies and motivations of cybercriminals looking to spoil their fun?

Top cyberthreats faced by gamers – what are they really after?

This article examines the threats to PC gamers specifically and their need for cyber security. Due to the unique nature of such games and their software, these games can potentially give hackers access to your device and data stored within. A compromise that begins at the game front or through an email from a spoofed game developer account can open up a treasure chest of opportunity for hackers.

Knowing this, cybercriminals commonly deploy the following tactics to either launch an account takeover, steal your credentials, or compromise your device:

1: Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are one of the biggest problems for gamers, leading to the download of malware or credential theft. Cybercriminals impersonate gaming companies to trick gamers into either downloading a malicious file or sharing personal details like usernames, passwords, and credit card information. They utilize social engineering tactics, such as urging gamers to download a heavily discounted add-on, keep their account secure, or opt-in for massive perks. So popular is this method that over three million phishing attacks occurred on online gaming platforms between 2021 and 2022.

2: Mimicked Interfaces

As some individuals take to catfishing through online games, hackers are utilising this same approach to launch attacks on unsuspecting gamers. A 2022 Kaspersky report found that cybercriminals had created fraudulent pages that mimic the complete in-game interface and marketplace of popular games like PUBG and CS:GO. Players are asked to input their log in details, which hackers then use to take over their accounts. Another tactic is to use such landing pages to get unwitting gamers to download malware that can then access their personal data, autofill data, passwords and much more.

3: In-game Cheats

Although many would rather not admit it, many gamers resort to in-game cheats and exploits to gain the upper hand – Black Sheep Wall anyone? These exploits are developed somewhere, and hackers have found this to be another lucrative way into the business. Cybercriminals have increasingly positioned themselves as cheat code developers, selling these tools on underground forums and illicit websites – to the peril of the cheaters.

Regardless of the tactic used, cybercriminals are after what makes them the most money. This can be from making fraudulent transactions with your credit card, selling your in-game items or currency for cash, to selling your personal information on the Dark Web.

Winning the end game – what’s the solution to online gaming risks?

Obviously, the answer is not to quit gaming entirely, but rather to proactively take control over your gaming security. In order to fully enjoy the gaming experience, we must be vigilant and educate ourselves about the best practices when it comes to cybersecurity.

Being aware of the threats out there is an important first step. This will ensure that we are vigilant and never complacent in dealing with potential phishing attempts. This comes along with:

1: Using strong and unique passwords
2: Always logging out when using shared devices, and don’t click “remember me”
3: Only using secure WIFI networks
4: Enabling two-factor authentication, using developer authentication tools
5: Updating anti-virus software and game patches as soon as possible

Beyond these cyber hygiene practices, it is also essential to recognize the need for holistic security solutions to overwatch your security infrastructure for you – even as you sleep or play. Even with the best practices in place, there are countless vulnerabilities that continually get exploited by cybercriminals. Namely, the reliance on human intervention to determine if communications received are malicious or not. With 95% of data breaches due to human error, we know this is a flawed approach.

This is where solutions like Flexxon’s X-PHY SSD come into play. Should cybercriminals bypass your best efforts to not engage with phishing attempts and outwit your anti-virus software, the X-PHY is your last line of defence. Designed to stop hackers as they attempt to infiltrate the critical data stored in your device, raise the alarm immediately, and shut them out before they make off with your stored data.

So are you ready, player one? It’s time to head back out and show them who’s boss.

About the Author:

Nelson Chia is the X-PHY’s charismatic Product Manager, a technology enthusiast and lifelong gamer. Growing up, he has always loved technology – seeing it as a boundless gateway to bring people from all corners of the globe together. To Nelson, technology is just as much as art as it is a science, a belief that he embodies in his work to bring people and technology together for greater security and peace of mind. If you share his interest, his favourite games are EverQuest, Warcraft, Diablo, Grim Dawn, Titan Quest, Assassin’s Creed and most recently, Baldur’s Gate 3.

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