Whether you’re a casual gamer or a competitive eSport participant, gaming online comes with a specific set of risks. If you’ve been gaming since online platforms first came on the scene, you may think you have a pretty good handle on cybersecurity.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, though. Technology has come a long way since those early days of online gaming, and cybercrime has evolved as well. It’s no secret that cybercrime has been on the rise, so it’s worth taking a good look at the security you have in place to see what can be improved. Here are some tips to help ensure your favorite pastime doesn’t leave you a victim.
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Keep Your Personal Information Private
Your personal information is the keystone to your identity. Always avoid sharing your full name and details about where you live, including your home address, identifying landmarks, and even the town or city you live in. Don’t ever give those you game with the benefit of the doubt. Several small bits of information — harmless on their own — can provide enough information for an accomplished thief to latch on to your identity and use it as their own. This can lead to theft, fraud, and a ruined credit score.
Update Software and Devices Frequently
Receive regular prompts telling you it’s time for an update? Stop putting it off by snoozing the notification. The truth is that many of these updates include patches to strengthen areas in your device or software that have proven to be vulnerable or problematic. Discovering the weakness exists does sometimes happen in the aftermath of a data breach. Many times, though, these updates can address existing issues preemptively, saving you the experience of having your data compromised.
There’s no arguing that it can be inconvenient to install and update when prompted, so don’t be afraid to schedule weekly or monthly times where you expect to check for and install any existing updates. This can make the process less of a chore and reduce the inconvenience factor while ensuring your devices are up to snuff and cybersecurity is maintained.
Enhance Network Security
Relying on updated, sophisticated software and devices aren’t enough to keep your data safe. Without a well-protected network, you’ll always be vulnerable to breaches. Anytime your device is online you’re exposing yourself to anyone else who may be using the same network. The easiest way to protect yourself is by ensuring no one else is using your network without your express permission.
Hopefully, your network is already equipped with password protection and it’s your primary network for engaging in online gaming. There are greater safety precautions that can be taken, however, like using a VPN. These Virtual Private Networks create a secure internet connection and encrypt data moving through your device.
In addition to protecting your networks from hackers, a VPN can also be used to mask your location and allow you to avoid firewalls. VPNs can also be installed on individual devices to help keep you protected even when you’re on the go, making them an excellent choice for those who spend time gaming away from a home network.
Don’t Skimp on Password Protection
Most online gaming platforms require a password to gain access. If you play across multiple servers or have many different games you like to play, it can be tempting to reuse passwords or stick with passwords that are easy to remember. While this can make things a little more convenient, it’s not worth the risk that comes along with reusing passwords. Always use a unique password — the longer the better — for every account you hold and make sure it’s complex, with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.
Plan on following regular password protocols as well — don’t share your passwords or account information with others and don’t store your passwords where they can easily be found or compromised. Remember, these accounts are often linked to a subscription or membership that allows access to a credit card. Sharing your password can easily lead to a loss of data. Where possible, you may even want to consider multi-factor authentication during the log-in process.
Use a Dedicated Bank Card for Gaming
Streamlining accounts and consolidating cards can be extremely appealing, but it’s best to keep a separate card for your gaming accounts. Using a dedicated bank card for any online purchases or subscription — a card that isn’t linked to your savings and doesn’t have access to a large amount of money — is the best way to protect yourself financially from a possible data breach. A single card is also easier to monitor (and cancel, if needed) in the event there is a data breach.
Monitor Your Account Activities
To best protect yourself, your money, and your data, keep a close eye on the credit card you do use. The easiest way to achieve this is by opting into account alerts. These alerts can come to you via text message or email and let you know when a charge has been made on a card. If the charge is unauthorized, the breach can be dealt with immediately and greater loss is avoided.
In addition to your alerts, make it a point to check your statement regularly. When account information is obtained, there are often several small nonsense charges made before larger ones happen. These purchases are made just to determine how closely you’re watching the account, so don’t be tempted to let unknown charges slide. There may be larger ones to come if you don’t contact your card company and deactivate the card.
Beware of Phishing Schemes
Emails warning there’s been an account breach, that a payment hasn’t gone through, or even that beta testers are needed, are ways hackers have phished for sensitive data. The hope is that you’ll be prompted to respond with important information, mistakenly believing you’re communicating with a legitimate business or employee, and leave your account vulnerable to a cyber attack.
Security protocols are in place for the platforms you love and use, and most are upfront with the fact that they will never ask for passwords or account information. If something seems suspicious, it’s always best to reach out directly to the company through a phone number, email, or chat found on an existing statement or through an authorized website.
Use Official Websites
Scam artists are good at what they do, and one of the ways they’ve found success is by mimicking existing official web pages. Always check the full HTML to ensure you’re using the official website. Double-check those email addresses and ensure email security for email communications, too, as those can be easy to manipulate to appear official.
When it comes to purchasing and downloading games, stick with well-known and reputable websites that feature the secure icon in the URL bar. Avoid purchasing games through platforms offering unusually good deals and remember — if it’s too good to be true, it likely is.
Consider Using Additional Software
Keeping your device up-to-date and your network well protected is a great start to keeping your data secure. You may also want to consider installing additional software on your devices. Antivirus software can protect your gaming device from malware like ransomware, which is anticipated to continue being a major cyber threat in 2021.
Many of the best names on the market do include a subscription fee. These days this software does more than scan email attachments for threats. It tracks the data that moves through your computer, looking for known threats while also flagging programs exhibiting unusual or suspicious behavior. Many subscriptions allow the software to be installed on multiple devices and networks, which means all of your internet-ready devices can be better protected.
Embrace Parental Controls
There’s no better feeling than sharing your favorite pastime with the next generation. Using strong parental controls can keep your children safe while also preventing them from inadvertently putting your information at risk. Have a serious conversation with minors about online safety and limit their access to purchase platforms, permission to install downloads, and making account changes to reduce cyber risk.
Reducing the Risk of Cyber Attacks Without Giving Up Gaming
If the past few years have taught us anything at all, it’s that cybercrime isn’t going anywhere. Despite our best efforts, we’ll likely see cybersecurity at risk and their fallout continue to become more common as more of our daily living becomes accessible via the internet. We can also anticipate that hackers and cyber thieves will continue to be on the cutting edge of technology.
You don’t have to give up your favorite pastime to protect your data, though. A few smart steps can help keep your information protected, and your gaming system operating at its optimal level, without compromising the gaming experience. Take the time to bulk up your security and follow basic protocols and you can experience gaming at its best — without risking your data.