October 2011 – #NSCAM (National Cyber Security Awareness Month)

Game On! – Eight tips to stay safe while playing online games

Do you or your children participate in online gaming, using your PC, smart phone or game box?  Then you need to make sure you understand what’s going on, especially behind the curtain, when you configure your “game” settings.

Game-Name:  Choose your game-name in such a manner as not to divulge your age, gender or location – SeattleSeaGal1994 – may indicate to other gamers that you are a female, in or near Seattle and were born in 1994, thus 13 years of age.  A more appropriate userid maybe Astr0id or Treetop.

Passwords:  Let’s start with making sure that the password you choose for your game is first and foremost unique to that game, is a strong password which has at ten or more characters, is not a word (in any language) and utilizes symbols, numbers and letters in both upper and lower case.

Profile setup:  Never include your personal identifying information which would allow another online gamer to physically locate you.  While 99.44% of all online gamers are on the up and up, there is a small minority that are not there for the game, but to identify and target individuals for their own nefarious purposes.  You don’t get to decide if you are being targeted; the miscreant does, so keep your personal information to yourself (ALWAYS).  Read the small print on privacy and breach notification (if the gaming company loses your data how will they notify you?)

Computer:  Ensure your security software is up-to-date each and every time before you hit the play button.  You can do this by activating the software and checking the “recent updates.”  Also, if possible don’t use a device containing the family banking, accounts, email, or ancestral tree as the gaming device.  Realizing it isn’t possible for all to have such a dedicated device, ensure that your personal family financial and identifying data is locked down on the shared hard drive.

Players:  As noted above, not all players are on the up and up and some competitive players may use techniques and interaction which make you uncomfortable.  Know how to disengage, block and report such individuals before you ever encounter one so that you know what to do should it occur.

Camera:  Turn-off the webcam.  If you don’t know how, either unplug the webcam or put a piece of paper over the lens.  There is no need for anyone to see who you are, what your environment is like and whether or not you are with others or alone.

Downloads:  Never accept a download from another game participants and be especially cautious when thinking about accepting a “cheat” program as more often than not, these are the vehicles by which malware (viruses, keyloggers, data destruction, data collection) can find its way into your otherwise secured device.

In-Real-Life:   Don’t meet your online gaming contacts in real-life without parental permission and presence.  There is little way to verify the intent of a stranger met online.

So enjoy your gaming, but do so wisely and with due caution.