As a security analyst, I have written a lot about how a person can keep their personal and financial data secure and protected from cyber criminals, and gaming consoles are not exempt from this realm because they often involve cybercrime.
Technical and social risks of online gaming can be summed up as follows:
Strangers tricking you into revealing personal information; exploitation of a computer’s security weaknesses; threats from real-world and cyber predators; threats of Trojan horses, spyware, viruses and worms. Here are some technical risks:
Using real money to purchase virtual game items can spawn “virtual crimes.” The technological risks are viruses, worms, malicious software (installed by viruses or worms), and predators luring people via e-mail, chat rooms or voice communication to visit malicious websites or open malicious attachments.
Server operator issues. Managing a server for running a gaming application brings vulnerabilities. A weak guard makes it easier for intruders to bust into the server.
Insecure gamer servers. Computers that connect to these can become compromised. Generally, games with a network connection pose some degree of risk to computer security.
These loopholes can be tapped into by crooks to control someone’s computer remotely or install programs like spyware and Trojan horses to steal personal data.
Weak game coding. Machines communicate gaming information-this is inherently not secure. Game software thus is at risk for intrusion.
Social risks of gaming consoles include the following:
Identity theft. A thief can create an account in your name from your gaming profile, then resell it or use it to invade your financial accounts.
Installation trickery. Predators can trick users into installing malicious software. Tricks include luring you to a fake website that purportedly offers game downloads which are really malicious software.
Protection rackets. Fraudulent gamers scare weaker participants into paying for protection from adverse consequences with virtual or real money.
Cyber mugging. Game players’ items are robbed in the virtual world.
Cyber hooking. A cyber hooker can get people to pay up for minute-by-minute cybersex.
Cyber sweatshop. In developing countries, workers are exploited economically by criminals.
How can you protect against all these risks associated with gaming consoles?
- Employ antivirus and antispyware software
- Use a firewall
- Confirm security and authenticity of downloads
- Use long, strong passwords
- Keep your application software updated
- Be judicious about opening attachments
- Have secure web browsers
- Have all personal/financial data identified and backed up
- When gaming in administrator mode, confirm the reputation of the game vendor and download the game from a trussed site
- Better yet, try not to game in administrator mode because it makes it easier for an attacker to hijack your computer
- Don’t allow more permissive firewall security settings; avoid multiplayer gaming
- Game at the game site
- Supervise your kids’ gaming and keep the password private
Remember, gaming consoles are an easy way for crooks to hijack your data and really mess things up for you. Follow the above recommendations to keep your gaming console a closed portal to hackers.