With most contact sports being out of the question, many viewers have turned to e-sports and competitive gaming to satiate their needs. Electronic gaming is a massive market, and both gamers and gaming companies rake in billions of dollars a year in revenue. Yet, with companies like these relying on technology, there will always be malicious users that try to “game” the system. Cybersecurity in online gaming is a significant concern for many companies, not just because it threatens their profits, but because it can damage their user base’s confidence in the fairness of a game. When users start seeing the game as unfair, they stop playing, and the company loses their audience as a result.
Player Vs. Hacker – The Cat And Mouse Game
As long as there’s a benefit to be gained, hackers will aim to exploit systems. This exploitation can take many forms in online gaming, ranging from delving into user details at the back end or scamming the company out of ad revenue. Software isn’t perfect, and even the most secure game can be exploited. Luckily, thanks to these games’ online nature, businesses can push out patches that address and fix these issues. Cybersecurity is a constant arms race. Gaming companies need to be constantly vigilant to avoid running into problems with hackers.
On the other end of the spectrum are the players. Hackers target not only companies but also the users that want to get an edge. It’s not uncommon to hear about people being on the receiving end of a hack because they downloaded a tool that would help them be more competitive in an online game (or outright cheat). The threat landscape is unique for online gaming since it encompasses several angles of attack. Among the most common attack vectors that malicious users may use include:
Connections between servers and users are usually secure, but the software clients may be vulnerable to exploitation. Businesses that depend on the MMORPG mainstay of subscriptions need to protect the payment details of their clients. However, since those details are stored on a server location, it can be difficult for malicious users to access them. More modern games have opted for a micro transaction-based model, and here is where vulnerabilities can lead to the real-world loss of money. In these game models, the user may submit payment across a gateway to receive digital goods. However, if that data is stored on the local client, a malicious user may exploit vulnerabilities to access that payment information and other user details without their consent.
Bundled Malicious Content
Most of us who have been using computers over the last decade knows that it’s unwise to download attachments since they may contain malicious code. Few of us know that malicious code no longer needs to be downloaded and run for it to carry with it viral infections. The most recent example of this was the SpideyBot malware that utilized popular voice chat service Discord to bypass URL filters and deliver its payload. While most people download gaming clients and software directly from manufacturers, some use third-party sites, and these payloads may come bundled with unwanted hitchhikers.
Stealing Gaming Credentials
In most online games, having a username and password linked to your account allows you to access the game servers. However, there are times when malicious users can get access to this information and steal the account from its legitimate user. Compromised credentials make their way onto the Dark Web. There have been several infodumps that incorporate user credentials on the dark web from multiple gaming locations. Businesses have taken to protecting their users through two-factor authentication (2FA), which prevents unauthorized access to their accounts. The problem is that 2FA needs to be adopted by users for it to affect their user accounts. Many gamers see it as a hassle and don’t activate the service, leaving them vulnerable to having their user accounts or in-game items and currency stolen.
Meeting the Challenges Of a New Entertainment Landscape
Gaming companies need to be vigilant when it comes to protecting their users, but users also need to be aware of what they’re doing. The entertainment landscape has changed, and today’s companies have new threats to their users’ safety and security. While the gaming industry isn’t as profitable a target as the financial sector, the risks this industry faces can come from several different directions. Both gaming companies and consumers need to keep an eye out for potential attacks. Gamers consider themselves relatively tech-savvy, and it’s this false sense of security that malicious users prey on. Constant vigilance is the only way you can stay a step ahead of hackers who want your data or want to defraud you out of your money.