Online gaming and especially the video gaming industry, has undergone a tremendous evolution in recent years. But with every good thing that attracts widespread use, there are always some unscrupulous individuals out there seeking to use it for ulterior motives. As developers continue to launch new apps, softwares, and similar products, hackers are also busy devising ways to take advantage of the new digital products to harm users. This cybersecurity threat means that the video gaming industry is not safe at all. The more popular online gaming increases, the more aggressive hackers have become, threatening and manipulating online players. This case study was confirmed by the University of Maryland, which showed that cybercriminals attack unsuspecting users every 40 seconds. This cyber vulnerability is a significant disadvantage to an otherwise vibrant industry and calls for enhancing cybersecurity to protect online players. In this piece, we discuss substantial cyber risks in online gaming.
Online gaming attracts fans of different age groups, and most games are popular with both adults and kids. For any of these users, online games offer an escape route from the pressures and realities of life. Many find security provided by online anonymity very enticing. However, while adults have a strong sense of judgment and know-how to navigate the murky waters of online gaming, children and young people are the most vulnerable to cyberbullying.
Still, malicious users capitalize on their online anonymity and see it as an opportunity to grieve others. For instance, they may capture quest targets to stop other players from getting to them to lock them out of the game. Or they can devise ways to block the progress of entry-level players, so they die and fail to advance. In extreme cases, cyberbullies may ‘whisper’ and target other players with mean, hurtful messages or spamming their chat boxes with insulting comments, etc. Given these depressing realities of online gaming, users must understand their safety options. You can block such users or take screenshots of any hurtful comments and report them to the platform admins.
The dangers of online games come in various forms and tricks. Some online games trick users with the “freemium” model, where they claim to offer complimentary premium content inclusive of full game features and functions which you’d normally pay to access. What most users don’t realize is that these so-called free mobile games are a booming industry in themselves, which generated a revenue of more than $61 billion in 2018 alone. The freemium model has significantly evolved over the years, offering subscriptions, better functionality, digital currencies, and other accessories for credit payments.
Typically, you’ll be required to attach your credit card to your gaming profile. But you may not realize that your card will be automatically charged each time you purchase these so-called freemiums. The best solution is never to give out your credit card information. Otherwise, if you use app-based games from Google Play or App Store, ensure you activate the password feature on purchases so you don’t get charged for items you did not approve.
Generally, online gamers do need to create usernames with their details. However, some children can use personally identifiable information (PII) like their locations or age. However, the social nature of online gaming enables cybercriminals to manipulate their interactions with unsuspecting users. They can target a single vulnerable user such as a child and engage them to reveal personal details. A child might unwittingly disclose sensitive information about them or their parents, which hackers may use to create digital personas, new accounts, etc. The solution is simple, never give out sensitive information and monitor your child’s online activities to ensure no sensitive information is out.
Cybercriminals are a creative and relentless lot. They can modify a seemingly legitimate app or software then launch it into a reputable marketplace such as Amazon or Google Play. The result is usually a severe Adware or Trojan infection on various devices, which turn machines into zombies and can compromise even the most sophisticated app marketplaces. The solution here is to be vigilant and be wary of any apps you attempt to download. Often these malicious softwares are presented as legitimate apps which can infect and even destroy your device. Otherwise, use these three basic steps to protect yourself from a possible malware attack.
- Find out what recent reviews and news stories highlight about rampant malware attacks
- Do your research on the developers of the game and app vendors or marketplace
- Always scan files using your cybersecurity software before downloading them to your device.
Although online gaming offers quality social interaction, it has its darker side. From cyberbullying to malware to online predators to hidden purchases, the cyber risks of playing online games are too many. The most vulnerable targets are children, and as a parent, it’s your job to ensure you introduce your child to safe online usage at a young age.
The earlier they understand these cyber risks, the more informed and vigilant they will be as they grow. Finally, it would help if you never attempted to download any newly launched games until they are officially released on the market since most are malware masquerading as legitimate apps or sites. The only place you can download any app or game is through verifiable sites like Google Play and Apple Store.