Remember when video games were limited to Player 1 and Player 2? The explosion in video game technology has made it possible for gamers to evolve from playing Pong alone in their bedroom to becoming part of a complex online network of games. Massive Multiple Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), such as World of Warcraft have millions of players online at any given time.
By 2017, the video game industry worldwide is expected to generate over $80 billion in revenue, due largely to online gaming. Like anything that exists on the Internet, there are increased online security risks, questioning the safety of online gaming. Below we discuss the risk assessment involved with playing video games online and how to protect yourself.
Technological Risk Assessment of Online Gaming
There are a number of technological risks to your computer system when one becomes involved with online gaming.
- Worms and Viruses: Instant messaging programs and email messages can house viruses that arrive as attachments, or are hidden in game files that are downloaded or found in installed software.
- Malware: Worms and viruses can be used to install malware in order to take advantage of the social networks associated with online games that use email, chat or voice communication. The malware is used to invite you to visit fake websites or to open up email attachments that contain malicious software and install it on your computer. This software is then used to gain access to personal information for financial gain.
- Compromised or Insecure Game Servers: When software on a game server has been compromised, any computers that connect to it can become compromised. By exploiting vulnerabilities, online criminals can gain access to your computer and control it remotely. Malicious users can use your computer to install Trojan horses, spyware, adware or access personal information on any computer that connects to yours during gaming or communications.
- Insecure Game Coding: Some game protocols for communicating information between machines are not as secure as other protocols. Game code may not be monitored as well as other commercial software. Erratic behavior on your computer can introduce dangerous vulnerabilities.
Social Risks of Online Gaming
Now that video games involve community chats, talks and instant messaging, a whole new batch of social risks are involved, such as:
- Identity Theft: Malicious gamers can take information from your profile created in games and use it to set up accounts in your name, access your financial accounts or sell your personal information.
- Social Engineering: Cyber-criminals try to trick gamers into installing software on your computer that they can use to control it, launch attacks on other devices or monitor your online activities.
General Security Practices for Online Gamers
Here are the most common ways to protect yourself when participating in online gaming:
- Securely configure your web browsers.
- Use antivirus programs.
- Do not open files attached to email or instant messages without being cautious.
- Use a firewall.
- Verify the security and authenticity of new software and downloaded files.
- Update and patch your application software.
- Identify then back up financial and personal data.
- Create and use strong passwords that are unique to that system.
- Use administrator mode only if the vendor is reputable.
- Play the game at the game site and save web browsing for a later date.
Contact us if you have any questions about security for online gaming or for your personal or business network.