Gamers threatened by malware

Video game players who use hacks are especially vulnerable to infection.

Video game players have become targets for cybercriminals in recent months. Although gamers may not possess the vast quantities of lucrative data that large enterprises have, their less secure defensive measures and willingness to engage in risky online data transfers puts them at risk for exploitation by hackers and data thieves. The gaming world is a much more dangerous place than its participants probably realize.

In fact, hacks used to make modifications to games have a large probability of containing malware. A study of hacks for the five most popular PC games currently on the market found that 90 percent of them could contain malware that would wreak havoc on a user's system.

Hackers target online gamers
Even if gamers attempt to stay on the straight and narrow and avoid hacks, just the act of engaging in online gaming could put their systems at risk. One popular online game, The War Z, was taken offline after hackers gained access to player information stored on the game's servers. Some of the data exposed by the breach included the IP addresses of players. More insidious was the revelation that hackers had exploited a vulnerability in another popular game to remotely deploy harmful malware onto gamers' systems. Although the game's security protocols utilize application control and whitelisting tools, the malware can bypass them if the user's computer does not have similar software installed. 

"This is a good example to show people that even [if] games adopt several protections, odd, nonstandard [behaviors] in the operating system in use will allow attackers to bypass all the security measures adopted by the games," said Donato Ferrante, a researcher with IT security company ReVuln.

Gamers lose in court
Gamers may not find relief by turning to the legal system either. A California federal judge recently dismissed a multi-million dollar class action suit filed against Activision Blizzard Inc. after the video game company was the victim of a data breach that exposed gamers' personal information. The judge ruled that because the plaintiffs could not demonstrate the damage caused by the compromised data, their case had no bearing. 

For the time being, the threat of hackers will be part of the video game industry. In order to protect their sensitive data and their computers from being infected by harmful malware, gamers should employ a holistic cybersecurity measure. One of the key components of a strong defense is the use of up-to-date application control and whitelisting software. If a malware program's authenticity cannot be approved, it will be unable to launch on a user's system.

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.