Online gaming has become a popular pursuit for many in this modern world. It has attracted millions of people worldwide from different ethnicities, countries, and beliefs to play together and share the joy of having fun, literally sitting on the opposite side of the planet. However, while it could be fun playing online games, there is always a darker side to it, and you may have to face it if you’re not careful enough.
Even though the gaming community has advanced a lot throughout the last decade or so, there are still some concerns of security surrounding it. Online predators and other cybercriminals are always lurking around searching for innocent victims to make their prey, especially teens and kids who make most of the gaming population. This aspect alone has raised the question of cybersecurity while playing online games. So, what can you do to improve the safety of your private data and yourself while gaming? Before we go into that, let’s learn about the risks that roam the gaming world.
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What are the risks surrounding the gaming realm?
As mentioned before, while the majority of gamers are friendly and are there for fun, not everyone has the same intent. From pathetic people that bully innocent people to serious criminals looking to bankrupt someone, these kinds of cyber attackers make online gaming a little bit riskier. Below is a list of similar dangers that surround gamers:
1. Cyber Bullying and Harassment
Most gamers go into gaming because they want relief or distraction from the real world, and they usually achieve that by staying anonymous in the online community, simply playing games. Teens often find themselves getting along with this practice of meeting unknown people and befriending them as a gaming pal. However, not all are there with the intent of anonymously socializing. Few get overwhelmed by the power of being unidentified and start terrorizing any platform they can get their hands into, including online gaming. This includes cyberbullying and harassment of innocent gamers.
Often, cybercriminals target weaker individuals and attack them emotionally, even physically, in some cases, if situations are escalated. They send insensitive and hurtful messages, spreading violent acts, including leaving mean comments on their victims’ profiles and countless other forms of bullying.
2. Addiction to gaming
This might just be the least of the problems while gaming, but it’s a dangerous one. Gaming addiction is not something to be taken lightly. Instead, everyone must consider this risk before sitting down in front of their PCs for 12 straight hours. Overusing anything can be viewed as an addiction, and when you’re addicted to a screen inside your room, it can lead to serious health and social issues.
If your online time affects the real-world situations in your life, the addiction could even be considered a disorder. For example, your eyesight could deteriorate from excessive screen time, or you could suffer from physical problems due to the lack of physical movement. Apart from those, you might get social anxieties or lose communication with your relatives/friends. This, of course, is for severe conditions, but it is crucial that you regulate your gaming period.
3. Technological dangers
The online community is not as safe as you might’ve thought. Technological risks such as viruses, malware, spyware, and many other malicious files and folders could infect your computer. This can ultimately lead you to suffer from cyberattacks by making your PC vulnerable.
Downloading pirated games or visiting unsecured gaming sites could hijack your system by installing viruses into your device, making it susceptible to further attacks. Gamers with ill purposes could interact with you, asking you to click on links or attachments leading to malicious sites. All these factors are considered high risks for online gamers.
4. Identity Theft
One of the most essential things to secure when you’re online is your personal information. That includes even the tiniest details, like your first pet’s name or your favourite song, to crucial data such as your financial info. The same applies to gaming as well.
Lots of gamers put their own picture as profile photos and include personal details in their accounts on gaming applications or sites. Many even enter their banking information to make in-game purchases without protecting their devices first. Cyberthieves are always ready to steal whatever data you have uploaded and use it for performing illegal or criminal activities. They usually target vulnerable people, whose install weak or no antivirus at all on their devices. This could ultimately lead to identity theft to a serious level.
5. Social Engineering
When an individual emotionally and financially victimizes someone innocent by manipulating them through online trickery, such a situation is known as social engineering. Some common types of it include phishing, vishing, impersonation, baiting, and many more.
Using this method, hackers try to impersonate any individual or organization that you’d believe to be legitimate and real, then gather critical information from you to use that for various purposes like identity stealing, selling your personal data on the dark web, blackmailing you for ransom, and lots of other criminal activities.
How to maintain safety while gaming?
Once you have identified most of the risks that you might encounter while playing online games, you must learn how to prevent them or face them if you ever come across those dangers. Following is the list of few things you do to remain safe while gaming:
- If you have your personal details on the gaming accounts, immediately reduce them. For example, your username. Try changing it to something anonymous and unrelated to yourself. Also, don’t put out your actual date of birth or address on the applications. Do not use a webcam for chatting with strangers, and never you’re your pictures even if someone is very compelling.
- Install a strong Antivirus for PC Gamersthat can back up all your crucial information.
It’d be best if it comes with a VPN with a powerful encryption tool, like Norton 360, to dazzle cybercriminals trying to get into your system.
- If someone is using vulgar language or is trying to threaten or harass you, simply mute them. In case if the situation gets escalated like if they send you hurtful messages on chat, report and block such an individual.
- Research about the game you’re about to install on your device. Before visiting online gaming sites, check for their legitimacy. Download a robust antivirus with Firewall protection to help shield your PC from getting infected with malware and viruses.
- Use strong passwords for all your gaming accounts. Keep a passwo rd manager that can organize them and store them securely.
- Update your OS whenever you’re notified to keep up with the security issues.
- Cyberbullies usually target children or teens who seem more vulnerable. Inform your kids about the online risks and also teach them how to tackle such dangers by following best online practices. Limit their screen time and restrict them from visiting unsecured sites or interacting with suspicious individuals. Ask them to take your permission before entering any financial information on the gaming sites. Doing this will minimize most of the risks mentioned above.