Young boy playing video games in the dark

Cybercriminals are Playing Dirty

Online gamers of all ages may not realize the real-life dangers of sharing personal information, leaving them susceptible to vulnerabilities such as fraud, swatting, and identity theft.

The Global Game Market Report estimates that downloaded, digital game revenues took 91% of the global video game market in 2018 ($125.3 billion), with boxed games making up the remainder. This gamer ecommerce channel opens a massive gateway for cybercriminals to hack and commit fraud by preying on unsuspecting online players.

Game Over: Personal Information Exposed

As new games are introduced to the market, players’ excitement to jump into the latest adventure skyrockets—and so do the watchful eyes of cyberthieves. Young gamers are particularly vulnerable to fraud and are less likely to notice when their accounts have been hacked.

In 2019, two major internet-connected video games exposed Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of their users:

  • January 2019 was the second time in less than a year that Fortnite, one of the most popular online video games, experienced a security incident. In the most recent breach, the account information of over 80 million players was exposed. The revealed data allowed hackers to take over accounts, make purchases with the game’s virtual currency, and eavesdrop and record conversations among players.
  • Also in January this year, the usernames, email addresses, and passwords of 7.6 million of Town of Salem players was hacked through an unprotected game server.

Malicious Use of Shared Information

Personal information is not only stored by individual games but is often shared in seemingly innocent game chats that can take a turn for the worst. Spiteful players have used this PII to their advantage: taking over accounts to make in-app purchases, impersonating and damaging the victim’s online reputation, or stealing their identity for financial gains.

In a much more dangerous scheme, malicious gamers have used this shared personal information, such as a home address, to commit “swatting” attacks. Swatting, essentially a high-stakes prank, occurs when police receive a phony tip regarding illegal activity in progress at the victim’s location, causing the police or a SWAT team to show up unexpectedly — and usually in full-force — at the victim’s home. Swatting is a serious offense and perpetrators will face criminal charges.

Play Safe

Be aware, and stay vigilant, about the information you or your children share while playing your favorite online video games. Practice safe gaming habits to prevent falling victim to online threats.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Online Gaming Vulnerabilities

  1. Beware of what is shared. Educate kids on what is considered personal information, and that it is not safe to share such details with strangers online.
  2. Disable devices when not in use. Block and disable your video game console, webcams, and microphones when not in use.
  3. Create an anonymous gamer tag. Refrain from using personal information such as real name, location, or age when creating your online gaming profile.
  4. Avoid clicking suspicious links. Links received through a game chat or on your mobile device may contain malware designed to infiltrate your devices and accounts for hostile purposes.

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