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By 7 February 2013 | Categories: news

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Forget aliens, robots, demons or zombies; for gamers the very real threat is increasingly cybercriminals. Unlike the former, the latter are not mindless or artificially generated, and have no compunction about playing unfair or fighting dirty. Their weapons of choice? Malware, trojans and phishing attacks.

According to Kaspersky Lab, a particularly favourite victim for cyber-criminals has become those gamers, as the company recorded 7 000 attempts to infect those playing games with malware every day throughout 2012.

Malicious motivations

The attacks are largely attempts to gain access to personal user data, such as passwords to online games and online banking systems. However, a secondary motivation is theft for financial gain, with cyber-criminals aiming to steal avatars and in-game items to subsequently sell these virtual goods for real money.

Additionally, it comes as little surprise that players’ actual bank accounts are also under jeopardy, with criminals aiming to steal money directly from real bank accounts.

Kaspersky Lab revealed that malicious users send an average of ten emails with malicious links and attachments to gamers every day, in addition to making roughly 500 attempts to infect gamers via browser-based attacks. What’s more, Kaspersky reported that its “collection” of malicious programmes targeting online games is increasing at a rate of 5 000 new programmes a day.

Gone phishing

Apparently though, phishing (the act of redirecting a user to a fake website for the purposes of stealing personal information) is a particularly favourite tactic, with cyber-criminals invoking the names of well-known gaming worlds in a bid to lure gamers to their fake websites in order to harvest passwords from registered gaming accounts.

Kaspersky Lab elaborated that during 2012, the company recorded 50 000 attempted redirects to phishing sites each day, and 15 million attempted visits to phishing websites that were designed to look like the pages of one of the largest developers of online games.

While gamers are threatened globally, apparently the top three countries being targeted included Russia, China and India. Even though South Africa is thankfully not on that shortlist, nonetheless, the company has urged vigilance by gamers worldwide. The good news is that according to Kaspersky’s malware expert, Sergey Golovanov, there are some other common sense steps that can be taken.
 
Top three security tips for gamers
 
The first of these applies to emails featuring, for example, a request from an online game’s admin server for personal information. “Don’t just click on the link right away - it could be a phishing site,” he advised.
 
Secondly, Golovanov cautioned against downloading unofficial patches from dubious sources.
 
“You could easily end up downloading a ‘bonus’ in the form of a trojan that would then infiltrate your system and start stealing all of your passwords. And I don’t mean just for online games, but also for bank cards, if your bank offers online services. With this in mind, gamers might consider keeping an up-to-date virtual debit card that lets them limit their spending to an amount they choose – with no risk of someone else cleaning out their account,” he elaborated.
 
All the same, malicious users are just that, and some of them can outsmart even the most cautious user. That is why the third tip is the no-brainer on the list - using professional security solutions.
 
The company explained that its offering, Kaspersky Internet Security 2013, contains the “most up-to-date technologies available today for detecting and blocking malicious programmes.”
 
These include anti-phishing, automatic security against exploits, and a  virtual keyboard for entering usernames and passwords. Furthermore, and of particular interest to PC gamers, is the gaming mode, which will run with minimal interference or burden on one’s system resources and will turn off notifications as soon as the game is launched.
 
To the point
 
The bottom line is that while security threats for players – as well as general users and businesses – are a very real (rather than virtual) reality, the threat doesn’t have to spoil the fun, as long as players combine their street smarts with their trigger finger.

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