Online gaming is serious business and it’s not just the multi-billion dollar professional esports industry. The world of online gaming has grown rapidly over the last 20 years. 100,000s of young boys and girls, men and women, across the globe spend countless hours immersed in the worlds of Fortnite, Overwatch, and many more. At stake is not just financial reward, but respect, prestige, and self-fulfillment.
As games have become more complex, immersive, and competitive, many gamers have started taking extreme measures to climb to the top. Internet users have always been vulnerable and gamers are no different. They may actually be in even more danger, often unaware how much personal information they are making public and how this can be used against them.
If you game online, you need to understand the dangers involved and how to protect yourself. A few small steps can make a big difference in keeping you safe from attacks, without slowing you down.
What information can be used against you
Whether it’s from hackers, financial scammers or rival gamers, there are many ways your personal information can be found and turned into a weapon. Check your online gaming accounts to see if any of the following can be viewed, found or figured out
- Unsafe usernames: These include using your real name or referencing any personal details, such as your birthday, location, gender, and social media profiles.
- Your email address: You need an email address to sign up to most online accounts, but if this is easily obtained from your gaming profile, it can create a lot of problems.
- Obvious passwords: Passwords that are simple, short or obvious can, if stolen or figured out, give access to loads of your private and financial information.
- Your IP address: This is the physical identifier of your gaming device and internet connection. IP addresses are often the easiest way to target you for hacks and gaming attacks.
- Providing your private information: This can happen easily in conversation with other players. It’s natural that once you become friendly with somebody, you will start to open up and tell them about yourself and your life. Be careful, because you never really know who’s listening.
Types of attacks and hacks
Once any of your information is discovered, you could be in for a world of trouble. Financial crime, identity theft, bullying, and much more are all real concerns for online gamers. These can seriously affect your life, ruin your finances, your emotional wellbeing, and even endangering you physically.
Be aware of the most common dangers, so you know what to look out for.
- Online Bullying and Abuse: This usually happens after your social media accounts have been discovered. Bitter, defeated or spiteful gamers target rivals with continuous bullying and harassment, often with the help of friends. ‘Doxxing’ is a term commonly used to describe this form of online bullying and it can be found in all aspects of online life.
- Online bullying destroys lives every day, so always keep your social media and gaming profiles separate. Otherwise, create social media accounts that are only used for your gaming profiles.
- Phishing: A very common financial scam used by cybercriminals once they have found your email address. A ‘phishing’ email is sent imitating a legitimate business, your credit card company or a paid gaming platform and asking for personal or financial information. This is then used to steal from your bank accounts or use your identity for fraud. Sometimes the emails will also contain malware or other tools for fraud, putting you in even more danger.
- DDOS Attacks: Gamers use ‘Direct Denial of Server Attacks’ to shut down their rivals. This is a high-level attack, used against the most popular or successful competitors, with devastating results. By using a network of hijacked, infected computers to overload your IP address, a DDOS attack slows your connection down until you can no longer get online. This shuts you out of all online gaming.
- Swatting: While not as common as other forms of online attacks, this is potentially one of the most dangerous. Swatting is an old prank that has been adopted by many gamers, making hoax police calls to somebody’s home address. The victim is then raided by the police (SWAT referring to American police forces). Swatting popular Twitch and Youtube Live streamers for entertainment is becoming a real issue online. A man was recently killed in a swatting hoax in the USA, the result of a dispute that started on Call of Duty.
How to Stay Safe
Most of us don’t realize how often we put ourselves in danger online, especially when gaming. We also don’t realize how easy it is to protect ourselves from most forms of attack. If you’re a regular online gamer, there are three simple steps you can take to hide your identity from criminals, bullies or bitter, desperate rivals.
- Hide your personal information: Always use random usernames and passwords when online. Don’t use a real photo on your profiles. Separate your gaming profiles from your social media accounts. Use a separate email address just for gaming. Never provide hints or clues about your identity or location to other gamers.
- Embrace 2-Step Verification: Most email and online banking service providers already use 2-Step Verification to protect their customers from fraud. Many online gaming platforms have also started using it. If 2-Step Verification is available to you, use it. It significantly boosts your protection.
- Use a VPN: A Virtual Private Network is absolutely essential to staying safe online, not just in gaming. A VPN hides your IP address, identity, physical location and browsing activity from the outside world. You can even change your location to a different country, to really throw potential attackers off. This one tool will add many layers of encrypted protection and have the greatest impact in keeping you safe from the harms of online gaming. Make sure you pick a VPN that won’t slow down or disrupt your connection.
Online gaming will continue to grow more competitive, immersive, and lucrative for players. This means that gamers will also become more vulnerable to hacks and attacks from scammers, rivals, and cybercriminals. The attacks will also grow more complicated and damaging.
Whether you’re gaming competitively or just for fun, you need to understand the dangers involved and how to protect yourself. If you don’t, online gaming can quickly turn from a fun hobby into a nightmare.