Digital warfare launched against gamers

Hackers could use MMO networks to spread malware to millions of video game players.

When you think of cybercriminal targets, video game players are probably pretty far down the list. Aside from the 2011 data breach that affected millions of Sony Playstation Network users, gamers have remained relatively unscathed in the global battle against cybercrime. However, recent reports suggest that they are just as vulnerable as anyone else.

According to The Age, several gaming businesses have been targeted by a ring of cybercriminals over the last four yeas. Dating back to 2009, at least 35 video game developers and publishers have experienced network breaches. The targeted businesses included companies located in South Korea, China, Germany, Brazil and the United States.

The culprits of this assault reportedly belong to a cybercrime syndicate operating out of China. Evidence suggests that the cybercriminals used malware known as "Winnti" to steal software code to create pirated versions of the game as well as in-game currency that could be leveraged for financial benefit.

One aspect of the malware attack that has raised some concerns among security experts is its potential to infect a large network of gamer systems. The targeted companies were notable for operating massively multiplayer online games. By infiltrating these networks, hackers could potentially spread their malware among millions of users. In fact, investigators discovered at least two incidents when malware had been uploaded to a game server and spread to unwitting players.

One way gamers can protect their systems from harmful applications such as "Winnti" is to employ whitelisting software. Using this security tool, video game players can establish a dedicated list of programs that are allowed to run on their computers. If an unknown application such as malware attempts to launch, the software will block it. By maintaining a comprehensive whitelisting database, gamers can continue engaging in online digital battles while protecting their systems from unwanted intrusions.

Suzannah Hastings

Suzannah is interested in all things digital, from software security to the latest technological advances. She writes about ways in which the increasingly internet-driven landscape changes our lives, and what we can expect in the future.