Gaming is one of the world’s most popular online pursuits with Statista estimating there to be over 2.69 billion active gamers worldwide. The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars and is therefore a prime target for cybercriminals who are keen to take advantage of those more focused on upgrading their weapons and defeating their friends in combat than engaging in safe gaming practises.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personally identifiable information, or PII. This information can include:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Bank account details
  • Credit card details
  • Passport number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Medicare number.

The most common way that this information is stolen is through a data breach. Cybercriminals are known to target large organisations and attempt to subvert their security systems to gain access to online records. The information they steal — your personal details — usually ends up on the dark web and is sold between hackers for their own profit. 

This is very serious — once information is on the dark web, it cannot be removed. It is well worth investing in dark web monitoring, which can alert you should your information end up on this platform. You can then at least take action to mitigate any possible damage. 

Why are online gamers susceptible to identity theft?

Online gamers face a wide range of threats to their privacy and security, chiefly due to the large amount of information that is required to sign up to a new platform.

Typically, in order to play a Massively Multiplayer Online game — such as Runescape or World of Warcraft — you need to personal information including your full name, email and credit card details. 

Gaming PC

Should a criminal obtain your login information — through a data breach, phishing scheme or hack — it’s simple enough for them to access your account, steal all of your personal details and wreak havoc on your life.

Cybercriminals have also been known to employ sneakier tactics to reach their goal. Online gaming is a social pursuit and hackers will often befriend their potential victims, promising armour upgrades and other free bonuses — but only if you allow them to access your account. Once there, they can wipe both your weaponry and your credit card details in one foul swoop.

What other threats are faced by gamers?

Beyond identity theft, there are a whole host of potential threats that gamers ought to be aware of — particularly children and teenagers. Gaming is an entertaining, social way to spend an afternoon but without the proper education and security tools, you risk exposing yourself to a suite of privacy and security issues.

Cyberbullying: Online games are another type of social media platform, one that provides you with the opportunity to compete against both friends and strangers. Unfortunately, not everyone in the online world has the same good intentions and gaming platforms have become a haven for cyberbullying and other types of malicious, predatory behaviour. 

Malware: Most online games require you to download software before you can play. This presents as a prime opportunity for criminals to take advantage of those who either don’t want to pay for the official product, or can’t tell the difference between a legitimate and fake application. Once malware-ridden software is downloaded onto your device, criminals can wreak havoc in any number of ways including tracking your keystrokes, spying on you through your webcam and ransoming your data.

Addiction: It’s not always thought of as a cyber-threat but online gaming addiction is a very serious issue, particularly for young players. Parents should keep an eye out for the warning signs which include behavioural changes, refusing to complete homework and disengagement with friends and family.

Staying safe while gaming online

Being aware of the risks is the first step in keeping yourself and those around you safe while gaming online. Other specific strategies that you can employ include:

  • Practise good password security
  • Using strong passwords that are different for each of your online accounts will prevent cybercriminals from accessing your personal details across platforms.
  • Monitor online accounts for suspicious behaviour: Monitoring your online accounts, particularly those that are financial in nature, means that you will be able to alert your bank proactively should you notice any type of suspicious activity. This can be the first sign that cybercriminals have accessed your personal details.
  • Install security software: Software specifically designed for gamers will protect you against most gaming-related cyberthreats including DDos attacks, doxing, webcam hacks, malware and phishing.
  • Set limits: Setting limits on the amount of time that can be spent online or the type of games that can be played is a particularly good idea for parents, who may be concerned about the content their children are accessing or the people they are playing with online. Setting limits is recommended for all online gamers to achieve a positive balance between the online and real worlds.

Armed with the right knowledge and security tools, you will be well equipped to participate in safe gaming practises. Enjoy defeating enemies and racking up an all-time high score without worrying about the security of your personal information.

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Hardware enthusiast, Gamer, Writer. I enjoy picking up games, putting them back down, and then writing about it.