While cybersecurity is usually one of the last things on players’ minds when they play online games, it is, in fact, a growing concern. Many don’t realize that security is just as important while playing a released title as it is while developing a game. And the responsibility to maintain a secure gaming experience doesn’t just lie with the game developers but with those playing the games as well.

Gamers are mostly aware of the more popular security threats. For instance, chat scams where people try to get your personal info by acting friendly and sending links that are actually malicious codes, or fake game cracks. But new threats are emerging every day. The most recent big target is the Fortnite cheaters. Those guys thought they were getting some devious new software that would help them win the game when, actually, their computers were simply being infected with malicious software that sent sensitive information like browsing history and Bitcoin wallets to a Russian ISP address.

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom, and if they play it smart (pun intended), then gamers won’t have to worry about anything but who their next frag will be. Here are five tips on how to make your gaming experience more secure.

  1. Protect Your Game Data by Saving to the Cloud

While ransomware is becoming more recognized in the business sector, gamers are also being targeted more frequently by wily individuals or groups who hold their gaming accounts or save files ransom until a certain amount is paid.

The most notable case involves a popular ransomware script called TeslaCrypt. It allowed hackers to encrypt gameplay data for numerous well-known games, including Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and the Call of Duty franchise, and block users’ access to their configuration files, game items, and save files. While TeslaCrypt has been shut down by its creators, it and other similar scripts pose a significant threat to all gamers.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much people could do to avoid TeslaCrypt. It spread through compromised WordPress sites via backdoor JavaScript files that opened pop-ups in the background and installed the malware while people were browsing the internet. However, there are still some preventative measures left to minimize the risk in the future.

The best way to avoid being targeted by ransomware is to play the games that also save files and game data to developer’s cloud servers. Those servers are usually very secure and are much harder to penetrate than a typical individual’s computer. If you’re playing an offline game, then game launchers like Steam and Origin also offer the option to save your game files to the cloud.

2. Don’t Click on Links When Chatting with Strangers

Phishing is one of the most popular methods hackers use to gain access to game accounts or personal information. Usually, this type of scam involves chatting with the player and trying to get them to join a team or group of people who play games together. After the player agrees to join in, the scammer usually sends a link, for instance, to a supposed voice chat application that the team uses to communicate. However, as soon as the player clicks on the link, the malware starts downloading onto their computer or console.

The easiest way to avoid these types of scams is to refrain from clicking on links from strangers and sharing any personal information. Instead, stick to well-known platforms, and search for the application on a search engine. Also, don’t click on any links someone shares when downloading additional applications.

3. Protect Your IP Address with a VPN

Every once in a while, we can hear about a new incident involving one angry player tracking down the IP address of whoever they feel wronged them in a game and then using that information to hurt the person in real life. While this doesn’t happen all that often, the cases that do occur can have severe consequences. Like the “swatting” phenomenon which lead to the death of a 28-year-old Call of Duty player in 2017.

Serious stuff. But the easiest and most popular way for gamers to avoid having their IP address stalked on online is using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN allows a person to go online anonymously and creates a virtual IP address for them. That IP address shows a different location from the one where they actually are. There are many different VPN providers available, and it’s up to each individual to research which one suits their needs. But it’s a good idea to choose a VPN provider whose servers aren’t located too far from wherever the actual gaming will take place to avoid high latency.  

4. Don’t Download Cracked Games

While downloading cracked games is a terrible idea, many gamers still do that. And end up finding themselves with malware infecting their computers. These cracks may or may not work, but whether the cracked game is playable or not, there’s a good chance that the downloaded files contain malware.

The easiest way to avoid this issue is to stop downloading cracked game versions. Of course, there are those who will keep doing so, regardless of all the warnings. By doing so, they accept this risk willingly.

5. Download Apps From Reputable Stores

People play games on various devices these days, from PCs to consoles, smartphones, and iPads/tablets. So there is a myriad of different applications that devious people can use to target gamers. A big part of this revolves around fake apps.

There are apps for mobile devices that perform much the same function as cracked games. Sometimes they will look similar to a real game or program and other times they will look like a whole new application altogether. However, in the end, they never perform their intended function and infect the user’s mobile device. These apps usually steal sensitive data like photos and passwords within seconds of opening them.

While there’s always a risk of downloading a fake app, even from reputable app stores, it’s best to stick to them. Because the chances of that happening are less likely on reputable stores since these apps usually go through a vetting process. Never download apps from a source that seems sketchy or isn’t widely used.

Much like with any other type of scam, it’s easier for underhanded characters to target large groups because the likelihood of success is higher. That’s why gamers are such a bankable group. The industry is enormous, and it’s growing every day. Even more alluring – gamers tend to spend hours on the internet, whether they’re playing games, downloading them, or watching others play. Making it a ripe environment for anyone looking for a target. Not to mention the fact that gamers usually have to enter sensitive information like passwords and credit card information on gaming sites or stores.

So, it’s a good idea for any gamer to be aware of the potential dangers and be prepared for them. Lest they wake up one day to find their precious PC or console infected, or their bank account empty.