When it comes to games – especially online gaming, it’s one thing to play, but it’s altogether something else to be played.

Three interesting facts about the global online gaming industry…

  • The global online gaming market was worth close to $134.9 billion US dollars in 2018. (Games Industry Biz, Nov 2018)
  • There are more than 2.5 billion video gamers all over the world. (Gaimin, Jul 2018) Almost a third of the human race.
  • The number 1 game for awarded prize money in 2018/19 was ‘Dota 2’ with a prize money budget as high as $137 million US dollars. (Wondershare, Jan 2019)

The online gaming industry is at a crossroads. Despite – or perhaps due to, its remarkable growth and value in 2018 it faces massive odds from cyber-crime, which threatens to not only steal revenue from game publishers, but also inhibit future game creation that is only made possible by the sale of popular titles. Not to mention the very real issue of player cheating that threatens to destroy in-game economies and put legitimate gamers in an unfair position.

A report from Irdeto (world leader in digital platform security) notes that if the threat of cybercrime is not addressed, game publishers may soon find themselves in a losing battle where hackers have the upper hand.

The top five threats identified by the report are:

  • Account Takeover and Credential Theft – One of the most common ways for hackers to make a quick buck is to sell a hacked account. The Irdeto cybersecurity investigations team recently conducted an investigation on one site on behalf of a games publisher to determine the extent of stolen accounts for sale. For one game title, the team found more than 53 accounts for sale ranging in price from $5 up to $15,000 depending on what is included in the account purchased.

 

  • Virtual Goods and Virtual Economy Threats – One tactic often used by hackers is Gold Farming. This criminal strategy, often made possible by implementing a Gold Farming bot, creates resources within the game much faster than usual, causing inflation. Hackers can capitalise on the oversupply by selling these goods at a rapid pace. However, over time, the value of these items decreases significantly.

 

  • Game Piracy, Cracking and Console Hacking – Console hacking also remains a persistent threat across the gaming industry. Once attackers have gained access to the consoles themselves, they could gain access and download several games either through software packages or additional cracking. In addition, once hackers have access to the consoles, the gamer’s personal information, credit card details, account logins, and passwords, etc. could all be accessed.

 

  • Distributed-Denial-of-Service Attacks on Gaming Platforms and Servers – Typically, there are two main reasons why a hacker would execute a DDoS attack. The first would be to target other gamers, to knock them off their IP address. It could be financially motivated or just bad blood. The second reason would be to target gaming platforms and servers. A hacker could take down game infrastructure then demand a ransom to stop the attack and bring it back online.

 

  • Cheating and Reputational Threats – For cheaters, the opportunities to exploit other players are plentiful. The Irdeto cybersecurity investigations team recently conducted research into cheats available online and for every game publisher the Irdeto team found multiple trainers and cheat engines. For some publishers, the Irdeto team identified cheats for more than 10 titles.

There is also another legitimate threat not to be forgotten…

Predators using online games, FBI warns

Online multiplayer video games like “Fortnite” and “Minecraft” are exploding in popularity, and each contains a social media component where players are encouraged to interact with each other. But now the FBI is warning of a new threat: dangerous sexual predators using those games to target underage boys and girls playing online.

The warning follows a sting operation in New Jersey that yielded two dozen arrests late last year. “Operation Open House” saw law enforcement agents posing as underage players in order to snare online predators soliciting kids for sex through “Fortnite,” believed to be the world’s most-played video game at the moment.  FBI Special Agent Kevin Kauffman is now warning parents to get more involved in their kids’ game-playing world, sooner rather than later. “This is a tool that the predators are using to go out and get after your kids,” Kauffman said, adding “I would say that a good percentage of them are not who they say they are.”

Check a previous blog post on Kids & Tech: Parenting in the Digital Age for advice on keeping kids safe online.


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