Video game safety: The insight of professional gamers

From August 17th to the 21st, the eyes of millions of gamers throughout the world will be upon Germany. The reason is gamescom, one of the three largest gaming events in the world (along with the US’s E3 and Japan’s Tokyo Game Show). The hype generated by these events is huge, and if we take into account what we have recently witnessed with No Man’s Sky – one of the most eagerly awaited titles these days – the effect is multiplied, since the most important gaming companies tend to make use of these spaces to show their progress and upcoming projects.

It no longer seems strange to hear that someone can make a living out of video gamesToday, the video game industry has never been stronger, drawing comparisons to its first golden age in the 1980s. If we look at the numbers, we will see that in 2015 the video game market was expected to exceed $75 billion, with 1.8 billion active players worldwide. On the other hand, if we look at expert predictions, we will find that the entertainment category – only for PC gaming software – has reached $32 billion in sales.

Many consider that video games are the new ‘cinema’, not only because technological improvements have made them much more visually appealing and entertaining in terms of mechanics and commands, but also because of the way in which the stories are told, and the importance that high-quality scripts and plots have taken on.

Taking video games to a new level

Moreover, YouTubers, Twitchers and professional gamers have helped take gaming to a whole new level. In 2016, it no longer seems strange to hear that someone can make a living out of video games not just by developing or testing them, but also by playing them. If we only consider that in July 2016 people have watched over 77 million hours of League of Legends on Twitch, we will understand this is serious business.

Once more, Europe, Japan and the US have been the pioneers of e-sports, with world championships and tournaments of different franchises, such as FIFA, PES, DOTA 2, League of Legends, and Call of Duty, among many others, delivering thousands of dollars in prizes. Of course, sponsors did not take long to see the impact generated by these disciplines – just imagine any large company and you will surely find their logo now printed on the t-shirt of a professional gamers’ team.

Being aware of the risks

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Now, one thing that all gamers share – beyond their passion for games – is that they spend many hours on the internet, they log into many different sites, and they always have their credit cards at hand to buy the latest titles. Even though developers know that this creates a risk for data, sometimes there are simply not enough measures to apply.

With this premise in mind, we interviewed three gamers who are part of consolidated teams: Sergio Portillo from ZetaStrike, Mauricio Hernández from Delta Gaming, and Francisco “Patán” Sotullo, a FIFA professional player. We asked them their opinions on the status of IT security in the gaming world, as well as their recommendations for video game players, so that they can enjoy their passion without the risk of falling victim to cybercriminals.

How can professional gamers protect themselves?

“We gamers are already used to protect our data and files as best as possible; not because we have great computer skills, but because we’ve already been through bad experiences when downloading compromised games or when getting into places that appear to be one thing but turn out to be another”, Sergio Portillo explained.

“Never use a crack or hack. That is the lowest any gamer can get!”

Meanwhile, Mauricio Hernandez told us: “The most important thing is not to share your gaming account with anyone; most cases of account theft begin after showing this kind of confidence. And only buy games from official stores”.

Naturally, once they told us their secrets, our next question had to focus on how fans or casual players should protect themselves.

“A person who has recently been introduced to the world of video games needs to know that not everything is what people say it is,” explained Sergio. “There are many strange things on the web, for example, misleading advertisements that lead you to places you do not want to go, or worse, that try to convince you to download a program to solve all your computer’s problems. The best practice is, whenever you have any doubt at all, to ask someone who already has experience using computers, such as a technician or researcher.”

Meanwhile, Mauricio advised us: “The most important thing is to use strong passwords with a high security level, not to use your login details anywhere, and to always use a good antivirus solution.”

Which kinds of information theft, threats, or scams have you experienced in the gaming world?

Patán, an Argentine who became FIFA No. 3 in the world in 2014 and who was National and Pan-American Champion, told us his experience as a gamer and as a reference for other players:

Along the same lines as Patán, Mauricio explained that “the most common problem is game account theft; the stolen accounts usually end up being used to test new hacks and are then banned by the gaming companies, so it is useless to recover them”.

However, stealing accounts is not the only thing that attracts cybercriminals. They are also after credit card details. Mauricio continued: “Many cybercriminals look for our credit or debit card payment information; in addition, there are many Internet sites that publish offers of game keys three times cheaper than at the official store, and this may tempt users to buy at third-party stores that do not have appropriate security”.

Why and how should the security industry cooperate with the gaming industry?

Video games

It is clear that video games involve quite a lot of money and people. Besides, we are also talking about sensitive information, such as personal email addresses and credit card numbers. Bearing this in mind, we asked the gamers their opinions on how the IT security industry could collaborate in this regard.

Sergio was the first to take a stand, and explained: “A good initiative from security companies towards the gaming industry would be to create awareness campaigns, because many gamers – in particular the ones who are just beginning – are not aware of the risks involved both inside and outside the game”.

Mauricio reflected on this idea and added: “People do not talk much about video game security, perhaps due to ignorance or simply because they are careless. As players, we should demand game developers to increase safety or to provide us with specific programs so that we can take care of our data.”

Gamers advising gamers

Finally, we asked them to take a few minutes and think about their recommendations, which any kind of player can consider as part of their routine activities (so that they can enjoy their passion without taking unnecessary risks).

Sergio highlighted once more the fact that people should “not share their account information – it has to remain private”. He asked the community to be honest and “not to spoil the game with cheats or tricks”, and he finally added that gamers should be more responsible towards each other: “Teach the youngest kids to protect their data and files; this is a good legacy to leave for future generations”.

Mauricio largely agreed with Sergio’s comments and emphasized: “Buy games at the official store, no attractive price is worth your safety, and use two-factor authentication!” However, the most valuable piece of advice we got is to think about security from another perspective – honesty and healthy competition, which undoubtedly characterizes gamers: “If you are a bad player, don’t worry – there are many ways to improve your performance. But never use a crack or hack! That is the lowest any gamer can get!”.

Santiago Sassone
Senior Corporate Communications Specialist

Author , ESET

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