In 2011, a hacking group calling themselves Lizard Squad intruded Sony’s servers and brought down it’s popular gaming network, the PlayStation (PSN). The hackers reportedly stole personal data of over 75 million accounts, which, when expressed in financial terms, turned out to be a loss of around $170 million.
In 2014 again, the same group launched a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) on PSN and Microsoft’s Xbox Live servers on Christmas day, ruining the festival for thousands of users around the world. These are just a few examples of the level of dangers involved in online gaming. Despite being the products of some of the biggest names in the cyberworld, PSN and Xbox Live’s security infrastructure couldn’t shield off willing hackers from damaging their gaming networks.
Gaming is all fun and games until hack attacks forbid players from enjoying their escapist fantasies, or worse – losing their money and identity at the hands of cybercriminals. Most of the times, it’s worthwhile to stay alert on your own instead of passing the buck to the host companies. Below, we have compiled a list of six safety tips you can adopt to make your online gaming experience secure and stress-free:
1. Install Security Applications
This is the most important practice you can adopt that will not only help you make your gaming experience safer, but will also prevent you from overall threats on the internet. And if price is an issue, don’t worry; many antivirus and firewall applications these days come for free. Just make sure you download them from a reputable and trusted vendor.
Installing itself is not alone, though. You should be willing to invest a little time in updating them whenever there is a new version available. This will help the applications stay up-to-date with the latest virus definitions and confront them accordingly.
2. Create Strong Passwords
When Lizard Squad took over millions of accounts from Sony’s PSN, they revealed the details of thousands of users on the internet making them more vulnerable to identity theft. Passwords are something a lot of us take for granted, but it is the first line of defence against any possible data breach.
A strong password is as important as strong doors and windows in a house to prevent burglars from breaking in. Ideally, a good password is an invincible mix of complex alphanumerical characters that you should by heart, but it should never be something directly related to you like your name, age, birthday, address, etc. A golden rule is to coin your own complex word that can’t be found in the dictionary.
The trend these days is to create passphrase – a string of characters and words that doesn’t make sense in the real-world.
3. Play Safe with Trusted Vendors
The realm of online gaming extends beyond PlayStation and Xbox Live. There are plenty of websites that offer multi-player gaming opportunities, and emerging gaming apps on mobile that are popular among the smartphone users. But are they really safe? Or to phrase the question better – are all these safe?
The answer is uncertain. While there are many vendors that are offering genuine games for users’ pleasure, a handful of portals exist to exploit the user data by planting cookies, spyware, adware, and the likes on a victim’s device. Make sure you verify the company background and their authenticity before downloading a game software.
4. Beware of Downloading Stuffs
Let’s just acknowledge that even gaming is not immune of phishing baits that come in disguise of rewards.
When gamers are at the height of reaching their mission goals, they would give almost anything to progress further. Many of them lookup for cheat codes online, or ways to multiply their virtual avatar’s “life” by buying points on the internet. But this could spell doom for the naive gamers.
Bluntly put, these are traps set out by cybercriminals to coax gamers into sharing their personal information.
Many websites that offer cheats ask users to fill out a simple form for exchange of a code; others ask for their credit card payment for a negligible amount of money. Several cases have been reported where users received mails posed as communication from the game vendors asking for their account details, which later turned out to be phishing emails from hackers.
5. Collaborate Wisely
Gaming can be a fun activity where strangers from remote corners of the world team up and record new high scores. Many games like PSN encourage networking with other players for a collaborative pleasure. However, it’s important to realize that there are dangers involved when you are dealing with anonymous people whose identities and motives you are unaware of.
No matter how urgent your enthusiasm in a game might have reached, never ever share your personal details with strangers on the internet. These details include email ID, address or location, social security number, credit card, etc.
Also, it is safer to create an online persona then using your real name in a gaming platform, because that might be a tool for cybercriminals to stalk you and steal your data.
6. Start a Healthy Debate
Video gaming is a great way to kick back, hangout, and stimulate your brain if done properly. Game designer Jane McGonigal claims that “…an hour a day playing our favorite games will power up our ability to engage whole-heartedly with difficult challenges, strengthen our relationships with the people we care about most…” So in order to enjoy gaming, you need to set some basic rules about safe online habits, especially if you have teens or pre-teens in your family. These rules should include the aforementioned points, which applies to being safe on the internet in general.
As a smart consumer, you should educate yourself and the loved ones around you about identifying the threats involved in online gaming and ways to mitigate them. If you incorporate these simple things in your usual gaming sessions, you are more likely to enjoy your video gaming experience.