By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
As massively multiplayer online (MMO) gaming becomes more massive, with tens of thousands of gamers logging on every day, it is increasingly important for players to protect their online presence. Many online games involve unmediated and therefore unsafe digital forums where the exchange of personal information runs rampant.
To help protect your online gaming world against real world security threats such as identity theft, here is just a handful of ways you can avoid the digital dangers that MMO gaming presents.
Keep Personal Details to Yourself
Much like a spy is trained not to divulge top-secret information, the best way to avoid identity theft during MMO game play is to simply keep your personal details to yourself. Besides, identity theft is just one of many online threats that could take place if you divulge too much information about your account, your player history, or your personal details.
Even if you’re in a gaming forum of trusted players, you never know who’s watching, listening, or playing. So, don’t give away any information that isn’t related to the progress of the game and never, under any circumstances, answer questions from other gamers about your personal information. Even if it’s a trusted friend, other gamers you know could have hacked accounts that are under the control of cybercriminals who are phishing for more victims.
Stay Away From Pirated Games
It’s tempting and every gamer you know has probably done it, but the lure of free pirated games aren’t worth the penalties and possible viruses that go along with them. In terms of penalties, pirated games come with some strict punishments like the suspension of your gaming account or the blocking of your console from the server.
If that’s not enough to make you stay away from pirated games entirely (Note: It’s almost impossible to play a pirated MMO because of the DRM connectivity requirements), then think about the possible viruses, malware, and spyware they may contain. According to a study conducted by AVG last year, a jaw-dropping 90% of hacked games found on file-sharing sites contain malicious code. To avoid these repercussions, pay for your games and upgrades through legitimate sources.
Look for Signs of Security
There are plenty of security signs to look for when you are providing your personal information to gaming sites (or really any site, for that matter). Whether you are entering your credit card number to purchase a new game or you’re simply updating your player account information, there are three major signs to look for on the webpage to ensure your personal information is going to a trusted, secure source.
The first sign to look for is the https prefix in the website’s address itself. Although this doesn’t guarantee the site is secure, it does come with a level of Internet authority. Secondly, always make sure there’s a padlock or lock icon in your computer’s browser bar, especially when entering your financial information. This ensures that the site is encrypted.
Finally, always keep an eye out for security licenses, certificates, and linkable security logos. When the website displays its security information, it means the company is up-to-date on all its security software updates. If the website’s displayed information doesn’t seem legitimate, it’s best to avoid the site altogether.
Because of the Heartbleed bug, many of these SSL indicators don’t necessarily offer the same sense of security that they used to. While most companies have patched their software by now, it’s still wise to check and see if a site was affected by the bug — if it was, then you’ll want to make sure the site has been patched and take measures to change your password.
Password Protect Your Gaming Accounts
Even if you’re the only person using your account, it’s best to password-protect all of your gaming accounts. Hackers look for a number of things when it comes to choosing identity theft candidates. One thing they consider is whether an account’s password is easy to guess, or if accounts have an easy-to-crack, one-step authentication.
To prevent unnecessary hacking attempts on your gaming accounts, it’s important to come up with unique, character-rich passwords for your MMO accounts as well as all email accounts associated with your gaming. This is especially important if you’re an avid player with a large presence in the gaming community or if the gaming characters and inventory under your account are particularly desirable.
Also, if the game offers additional authentication steps, then it’s wise to opt into them. For example, Blizzard (maker of MMOs like World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo) introduced an authenticator back in 2008. Prior to this, World of Warcraft users in particular were being hacked at an alarming rate, mostly through keyloggers and simple phishing scams. After the introduction of the authenticators, though, reported incidents of hacking plummeted.
Be Cautious of Available Cheats
If there are other gamers or websites claiming they have cheats, let the red flags fly. Right next to the dangers of downloading pirated games is downloading “free cheats” that claim to help you in your gaming endeavors. There are legitimate cheats out there, but they’re usually an exploit or bug that developers move to quickly close in subsequent patches.
The best way to avoid any viruses, spyware, or other online threats that are likely associated with cheats is to avoid downloading them in the first place. If you do come across a cheat that looks legitimate, ask other trusted friends in the gaming community whether they’ve downloaded it with successful results.
In addition, remember cheats come and go, but a compromised gaming account will plague your system for the foreseeable future. The gaming companies also tend to ban users for using these cheats too, as more than 4,000 users of open-word MMORPG RUST discovered last February.
Protect Past Accounts and Characters
When your time with an MMO gaming community comes to end or you find that you no longer use your account for a particular site, you need to make sure you close out your account completely. An idle gaming account is like stealing candy from a baby in the eyes of hackers. So, make sure you officially close out your account through the website’s customer service or account services page. If you can’t figure out how to terminate your account, email the website through the contact page for details.
In addition, many gamers in the MMO community trade and sell characters and accounts regularly (much to the chagrin of gaming companies). If you’re one of those gamers who likes to barter his well-developed characters, it’s important to make sure none of your personal information goes along with the trade or sale as there could be a cyber-criminal on the other end of the transaction.
Protect Your Gaming Presence
If you’re an avid gamer, then it’s probably safe to say that you’ve built a respectable online presence. Protect that presence from malware, spyware, and identity theft by updating your computer’s security measures regularly. There’s plenty of anti-virus software available to help keep your computer and your gaming world safe and secure. Likewise, if you already have anti-virus software downloaded on your device, make sure you perform all suggested updates.
By following the tips above, you’ll have a fun and identity-theft-free MMO gaming experience. So now it’s time to have your say: Do you play MMOs? If so, has your account ever been hacked?