As gaming online becomes a common and normalized passtime, it’s time to get as serious with their safety as you are with your banking and other online accounts.
If you enjoy kicking back and relaxing with some top-of-the-line tech essentials and a friendly team to dungeon dive or beat the next speedrun record with, here’s some ways to make your online passtime safer.
Beyond a Password and a Prayer
For many of us, especially the Millenials who grew up when the internet and online gaming was in its infancy, it’s a miracle we haven’t seen more issues around gaming account security than we have.
From telling our life stories to random strangers we meet online, right through to failing to delete accounts once we move on from a game, gaming account safety (and our own) was often the last thing we considered.
Online gaming is a great space to meet new friends, share a common passion, and enjoy life more – but they can also be a treasure trove of vulnerable information for the wrong person.
Here’s how you can still enjoy your wider gaming community and time online without putting yourself at risk.
The Rise of Profit Hacking in Gaming
This is without mentioning that with the rise of ‘loot boxes’ and ‘pay to play’ in gaming, game accounts can (and possibly should) be seen as ‘bank accounts-lite’. Especially for young gamers.
And who better to act as a nefarious hacker then…well, the people who are already building their online skills in games and other digital media.
Petty gamers and irate small-time con-artists don’t sound scary in principle, but game account hacking is a lucrative business in darker corners of the web.
Data scraping pays, and with hacking getting ever more sophisticated, software to help match data from sites is traded across the Dark Web.
Choose a Name Wisely
As we’ve seen with social media, too, even the simplest things can turn into a veritable font of information for cyber criminals.
This includes your handle, gamer tag, or screen name. Any kind of PII, or Personally Identifiable Information, can be used to match you to other leaked data sources on data broker sites – and give hackers a place to start on guessing your passwords and recovery information.
While the bulk of information on data broker sites comes from other places – particularly some notorious data breaches we’ve seen in the last decade – anything that helps match your gaming identity to your real life is a vulnerability.
It used to be the norm to add a pet’s name, your year of birth, or something personal to a popular tag to get what you want, but it’s time to rethink that approach with security in mind.
Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication
Yes, these two again. While they raise their head in any security article, they are the bread-and-butter of being safe online. For gaming platforms without inbuilt multi-factor authentication, authenticator apps can step into the breach to help.
And be sure to start with a tough, non-personal password that meets all the metrics- 16 characters across upper- and lower-case, numbers, and special characters, and not using passwords linked to your real life. If password overload is getting to you, use an encrypted password manager to help.
Avoid Public Wifi
Unsecured wifi is convenient, but it’s also a massive risk. While you can use a secure VPN to help up the security of unsecured wifi services for business, many games will discourage the use of VPNs to avoid other in-game issues like scammers, griefers, and banned players remaking accounts.
So for the gaming environment, staying clear of all public wifi is your best bet. That goes double for making payment in-game!
Make sure you update all software you use. This includes the games themselves, but also your operating system, device, and other potential intrusion points.
This ensures you close any discovered security loopholes immediately, and keeps you safer from hacking attempts. Make sure you are using an anti-malware and antivirus program- and regularly updating the scan libraries for them, too.
Compelling Facebook Ads for bait-and-switch mobile games are a common joke now. Yet many of us fall for them. And, of course, there’s the dubious arena of cracking games you can’t afford to purchase legitimately.
Downloading dubious software, tinkered and manipulated games, and other problematic software is a fantastic way to invite hackers to the table. While it’s frustrating to go without, it is more frustrating to get scammed.
Talking about which, be very choosy in what you reveal in chat communities, too. You can pose as anyone on the internet, remember.
While online friends made gaming can be a fantastic community, being careful with what you reveal and to whom is the smartest way to stay safe. And never, ever, trust sob stories and ‘too good to be true’ moments.
From handing your account to a stranger to ‘get you through’ a dungeon boss for a fancy title, to sharing your account information with someone online, there’s no easier way to get scammed than literally opening the door to an account takeover.
It’s perfectly possible to game safely online with some simple thoughts to your own security and data safety. So enjoy – but enjoy smartly!