PC gaming is a massive industry, and the number of gamers worldwide is continuing to grow.
The scale of the video game industry and the impressive popularity of gaming platforms have attracted the attention of scammers and criminals.
These cybercriminals have found creative ways to tailor attacks and scams for the video game market, including distributing malware through fake versions of popular titles and using popular platforms to deploy phishing scams.
Kaspersky Lab recently released a report detailing the cyber threats present in the gaming sector, and provided tips on how gamers can defend themselves from these attacks.
In its research, Kaspersky Lab found that the proliferation of malware and phishing was severe across gaming platforms.
Fake games and phishing
Kaspersky Lab found that malware distributors were exploiting popular and unreleased copies of video games to spread harmful applications.
"In a review of the most popular video games, our researchers discovered that between early June 2018 and early June 2019, 932,464 users were hit by attacks designed to distribute malware," Kaspersky Lab said.
Fake versions of popular games which were infected with this malware included Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V, and Sims 4.
"For those gamers unable to resist the temptation to get their hands on a new edition of a game that has not yet been officially released, the penalty could be quick and unexpected," the researchers said.
The study found malware hidden behind fake versions of at least 10 unreleased games, with 80% of detections located in phony versions of FIFA 20, Borderlands 3, and The Elder Scrolls VI.
Kaspersky Lab also found that major gaming platforms including Origin, Steam, and Battle.net were rife with phishing attacks.
Steam is estimated to be the largest digital game distribution platform, and featured a particularly high number of fraud attempts.
Attacks on Steam users regularly exceeded 1,000 per day in the second half of 2018 and then rose to 2,000 into the first half of 2019.
"The greatest daily number of users hit in 2019 to date is 6,383 – compared to a peak of 4,175 in 2018," Kaspersky Lab said.
When it comes to defending yourself from these types of attacks, a number of standard Internet security rules would go a long way to ensuring your safety.
These include ensuring you have a unique, strong password protecting your gaming accounts, and avoiding dodgy download links or services.
To avoid falling victim to malicious programs pretending to be video games, Kaspersky Lab recommends taking the following steps:
Only use legitimate services with a proven reputation.
extra attention to the websites' authenticity. Do not visit websites
which allow you to download video games until you are sure that they are
legitimate and start with "https". Confirm that the website is genuine
by double-checking the format of the URL or the spelling of the company
name before starting downloads.
Don't click on suspicious links, such as those promising a chance to play a pre-release game.
Use a reliable security solution for comprehensive protection against a
wide range of threats, such as Kaspersky Lab Security Cloud.
Most cases of malware-infected games originate from piracy websites, and for this reason gamers should refrain from downloading pirated copies of video games.
Downloading pirated software doesn't only open you up to malware and other security risks, but it can also harm economic investment in countries like South Africa.