Gaming has evolved tremendously in recent years, with online multiplayer gaming taking centre stage. As you’ve probably guessed, it takes a lot of computing power for an effective gaming experience. That is especially true with augmented reality gaming, which is overtaking PC gaming because of the boosted interactivity and realism. Most serious gamers have dedicated machines for gaming only. Often, these machines are stripped of all but the essential programs to guarantee that the gaming applications receive the full processing power of the gaming rig. While this optimizes the gaming experience, the lack of other programs can expose the gamers’ devices to a lot of risks. In a cut-throat gaming world where gamers will do anything to guarantee a win, the cybersecurity threat is all too real.
Potential vulnerabilities gamers face
One of the greatest cybersecurity risks to gamers is malware. Depending on the malware’s intended purpose, the effects can range from the mildly inconvenient to the highly catastrophic. Ransomware is a great example of highly catastrophic malware since it literally holds your device hostage until the ransom is paid. The rise in the value of cryptocurrency has seen the rise of malware designed to steal processing power for mining. Machines infected with malware run the risk of overheating and crashing, not to mention other serious issues such as theft of information. Gamers are often a prime target for malware that siphons processing power because most gaming rigs are high powered and could potentially execute more crypto-mining functions.
As mentioned, there are gamers who will do anything for a win. Since game developers started increasing the security on their servers, the target has shifted directly to the gamers. Why hack the game when you can hack and eliminate the competition? While this is poor sportsmanship, it is also the reality that gamers are exposed to. Regardless of the genre or platform, hackers can ruin the experience for everyone else and can rightfully be called the bane of competitive gaming. Call of Duty is a particularly relevant example. Hackers have ruined online gaming for a myriad of players, using cheats to upset the competitive balance with invincibility, quick revive, unlimited ammo and more.
- Fake games, cracks and mods
Fake games, cracks and mods are also a vulnerability to gamers. It is not uncommon to find a link to a game that turns out to be a hoax. Real games can be found in authentic online game and app stores. However, if you don’t have the money to buy the game, then your best option is finding a cracked version of the same. Mods, on the other hand, are not developed by the original game developers. So if you are looking for a different experience, then you have to deal with the risk of fake software. Most fake games, cracks and mods are used to distribute and embed malware on the target devices.
- Information theft and fraud
The theft of personal information, login credentials, financial information and so on is also a considerable vulnerability. Even for non-gamers, such sensitive information should be protected at all costs. In a day and age when game accounts with high-level unlocks and rare items are easily bought and sold, a lack of account security can take away weeks and months of gameplay effort. And since many gaming services require credit card and other payment information, gamers stand to lose a lot should their information end up in the hands of others.
Common problems gamers face when dealing with online threats
- Lack of comprehensive cybersecurity
Of the issues facing today’s gamers, one of the most pressing is the lack of comprehensive security. There are too many attack vectors and vulnerabilities to cover. The problem is that there is one cybersecurity solution for every attack vector and vulnerability. Aside from the fact that the cost of installation, running and maintenance of each individual measure is absurd, each of these programs relies on the same computing power as your games. Running all of them simultaneously greatly impacts your gaming experience.
Additionally, most security measures are incapable of adapting, forcing people to be reactive instead of proactive. Hackers are far ahead of most security companies. Therefore, attacks are scaled in ways that circumvent the security protocols and parameters in most security measures. This is a complex problem whose best solution is the development of security programs that are ever learning. In so doing, they would effectively adapt to new threats, detect and eliminate them before they cause damage.
- Poor gaming performance
As mentioned, there are too many cybersecurity measures to take. Since you have to run these security programs simultaneously with your games, you are bound to notice plenty of performance issues. Even with a high-performance processor, dedicated graphics hardware and quality devices, you still run the risk of poor speeds, lags, slow loading, game crashes, etc. More so, most security measures tend to classify unsigned games as threats to the system. If the game isn’t purged or quarantined, some of its files are or serious restrictions are placed on it. All these have an impact on performance.
- Complex security measures
While most gamers are tech savvy, there are many cybersecurity measures that are far too complex. The lack of simple ways of executing these measures impacts their adoption. In most cases, it is easier to shrug off a security measure because of the complexity in its execution rather than having to study it. Simpler measures, preferably as programs, would greatly increase adoption.
Aside from that, the cost of purchase, installation, operation and maintenance of all the security programs needed for effective cybersecurity is far too high. When a simple cost-benefit analysis is performed, it’s often clear that the costs outweigh the benefits. One then has to weigh whether it is really worth it and for most gamers, the risks don’t seem too serious to justify the cost. Unfortunately, the risks are all too serious to ignore and an unprotected system is a potential target.
Smart life hacks you can use to protect your devices
- Install authentic games
The first step in your cybersecurity measures should be installing authentic gaming applications. Of course, these programs (especially AAA games) come at a steep price but purchasing a real game eliminates many of the above mentioned threats. If you have to install a game or other application whose authenticity is disputed, you should first run it through comprehensive antivirus software. If the program raises any red flags, you should consider discarding the program. The applications you install on your device could compromise the security programs and protocols installed on your device. You should avoid the risk before it becomes a severe threat.
- Install a premium VPN
For most online gaming enthusiasts, the key purpose of a VPN is to circumvent geolocation restrictions placed on games. In truth, the benefits of a VPN for gamers number far more than just lifting geolocation blocking. Another benefit is the elimination of latency and lags by evening and increasing the bandwidth. Of particular importance is the security provided by VPNs. A premium VPN encrypts your network and shields all the information that is transmitted through that network. The information is then ported through a network tunnel through servers in different locations around the world. This makes it very difficult to put a trace on your actual location and to read the information coming to and from your devices. For greater effectiveness, you should install the VPN in the outermost device in your network, such as the router. That way, all the other devices within the network are shielded within the created network. Premium VPNs allow installation in more than one device, and you can use this to your advantage by installing it on all your devices, just to be sure.
- Install antivirus software
It goes without saying that antivirus software is a critical measure in your cybersecurity campaign. When looking for an antivirus, consider buying one that also has internet security capabilities. In so doing, you can eliminate the need for installing firewall software. Antivirus software developers offer a free trial, and you should use this to monitor its impact on your device. You should also install an antivirus that doesn’t place too much of a burden on your processor so as to reduce the impact to your gaming experience.
- Install firewall software
If your antivirus also has a firewall feature, there’s no reason to install yet another firewall. Nevertheless, it is important to consider installing dedicated firewall software on your device. Like a VPN, it should be installed in the outermost device in the network. A firewall provides comprehensive protection against online threats and intrusions into the network.
- Install password management software
Password managers eliminate the risk of having your login credentials stolen. The software encrypts your passwords and manages them during login so that you don’t have to enter them personally. This is important since it eliminates the threat of keyloggers. Password managers also allow you to audit the passwords and strengthen them. Some password managers also provide protection for sensitive information such as financial details.
- Use secure devices
The security of your hardware is as important as that of the firmware. Ensure that your devices have the best security protocols. For example, consider using two-factor authentication on your gaming machine. That way, even if someone gets a hold of your password, they will not be able to access your account without a security token or temporary passcode delivered to another one of your devices.
- Be wary of the gaming sites
Check to ensure that the gaming site is completely secure before entering crucial personal information. Make sure the URL is correct and you are not entering any information on a fake site. For example, there are a number of fake domains for Steam. Secure sites also utilize the HTTPS protocol instead of HTTP. Finally, make sure you’re not exchanging your information with these sites on a public network.
The truth is, gamers are a prime target for malicious cyber attacks. The myriad of online threats should compel gamers to invest in good cybersecurity. Nevertheless, because of challenges such as poor gaming performance and high costs of cyber security, some may feel discouraged from taking the first step. Ultimately, the benefits far outweigh the costs, and a well thought-out cyber security plan plus a healthy dose of common sense can go a long way to giving you a safe and enjoyable gaming experience.