How to be a more secure gamer

November 19, 2012

The reality is that, on the whole, security for gamers and gaming isn’t all that different than best practices for normal online, social networking activities.

You need to maintain strong passwords and be careful about the where you place your information.

Like anyone else online, gamers are the victims of data breaches, account takeovers, and various social engineering and phishing scams, but they also have the added anxiety of protecting game-specific characters and profiles, which can be occasionally wiped out by bugs, external applications and other malicious actions.

The gaming space hasn’t yet seen the kind of criminal gold-rush that Microsoft and Windows were beset with over the last decade or Android and other mobile platforms are seeing right now. However, that is not to say that gaming platforms have been a beacon of security righteousness.

In fact, gamers have had their share of headaches. Attackers compromised Sony and its PlayStation Network (PSN) in what was regarded as one of the biggest data breaches ever, affecting nearly 100 million people. So thorough was the compromise of the PSN, that Sony had to shut down its online gaming platform for more than a month. Beyond the widely publicized Sony fiasco, the popular Steam gaming platform and marketplace has had its own issues in October when it was found the Steam platform was vulnerable to remote exploits, putting some 50 million users at risk. XBOX users have also had their accounts taken over. Players of mobile-based games have been targeted by malicious applications that masquerade as legitimate games, especially on the eve of highly anticipated launches (think: Angry Birds spinoffs). In addition to these, there have been countless isolated incidents affecting individual games.

Gamers would do well to head the advice handed out by  security experts on how to stay safe online. But, according to Stephen Toulouse, an industry consultant and the long-time director of policy and management at XBOX Live,  he advised that users be sure to use whatever form of secondary authentication is available for your gaming profiles, whether it’s SMS-based or some other secondary authentication mechanism. Toulouse is also a proponent of using whatever tools are made available by the gaming services to report and help root out cheaters and other miscreants as well as anyone who makes threats online.

Toulouse also warned specifically about phishers and social engineers, who are particularly rampant in the gaming space. In that regard, Toulouse went on to say that gamers should be very careful about people who claim to be moderators or enforcers asking for login credentials and claiming that an account has had complaints filed against it and is being locked out. Finally gamers should be skeptical of anyone or thing offering free prizes or credits that are often the parts of a larger scam.