Mobile gaming is on the rise. More and more people are ditching the PC to play their favorite games on smartphones and tablets. This is understandable considering that portability is a key factor in device choice these days; the more portable, the better.
What you should know, however, is that playing games on your mobile device puts you in an awkward position security wise. It gets even worse if you use the mobile device for work and to store crucial personal information and documents. When you’re online, all a hacker needs is a small hole within the game to gain access to your files. With that, they can clean your online accounts and do other untold things.
But it’s not just that. Here are five other security risks you face as you play your favorite games online.
This is by far the most serious risks faced by not only android gamers but online gamers in general. In phishing, a scammer sends you a fake email with a link to their (also fake) website which closely resembles a popular website such as Gmail, Facebook, or your local bank. The main of this is usually to defraud victims of their login credentials or credit card information. Eventually, these scammers can steal your data or even your money.
This tactic has proven extremely successful when attacking gamers. Criminals could even build a fake game aimed 100% at collecting your personal information. They can then ask you to validate your gaming account by providing your email logins. Once they collect this information, they can sell it to the black market to other scammers interested in stealing the vital information arriving in your inbox. They can even access your work and personal emails and hold you to ransom through ransomware.
This second one was most common with Pokémon Go. As Pokémon Go became really popular, scammers decided to take advantage. They created shadow apps that resembled Pokémon and placed them on the App Store. A few gamers who didn’t know which is which found themselves downloading the “fake” apps.
Once you download a fake Pokémon Go app, hackers can use a myriad of ways to attack you. They could undetectably collect your data. They could steal your passwords. They could even harass you. Or, they could just tell you to install a second “software” to make your app more secure. You’ll come across messages such as “Your device is infected with a virus. Click here to remove it.”
The messages are usually clickbait. There is nothing wrong with your phone. You most likely don’t even have a virus. The main target is to get you to click link and hopefully purchase the fake fixes.
3. Cheats and fraudsters
In online gaming, there are different ways of cheating. Some are considered legal, some are semi-legal, and others are outright illegal. That doesn’t stop rogue gamers from using them. Among the worst cheats are people who modify gaming clients to play better than ordinary players – precisely, faster, stronger. Other ways a person can cheat in an online game include using virtual gangs to rob novices and using errors they discover in the game’s server code to gain advantage over other gamers.
Fraudsters take cheating a bit further. After working so hard collecting golden coins and all kinds of magical weapons, a fraudster will come in offering to pay you some money in exchange for the coins or weapons. Never trust these people because more often than not, they never pay. They’ll disappear as soon as they have the weapons in their custody. Some even offer in-game advantages for a price. Don’t entertain these cheats.
4. Inventory theft
At a more lethal level, you might not know it but some gamers aren’t even gamers in the first place. The guy you’re competing might not even be interested in the game. Rather, they might just be imposters hoping to distract you and then steal your personal information.
These criminals target one or more of four things; in-game resources, well-developed (sellable) game characters, paid game accounts, or credit card information. The last one might be a little more difficult to access but the first three can be easily obtained through phishing, special password-stealing malware, and so on.
Highly ranked pro-gamers are the biggest targets. As you progress and acquire a loyal, paying audience, the hackers will be hot on your heels tracking every step you make in a bid to catch you unaware. The only way to beat them is to stay alert at all times. As progress in-game, be more and more cautious with your account. Set up two-factor authentication, create better more powerful passwords, use stronger security solutions for your smartphone, and watch out for phishing emails.
5. Smartphone compromise
Lastly, criminals can also attempt to infect smartphones with malware. The malware can take multiple forms. It can be a fake update. When you next login to play, you could find a message asking you to update the game to access latest functionalities. Budget smartphones are particularly susceptible to malware as they often aren’t powerful enough to handle more advanced real time virus scanning. Or, it could take the form of a game utility program posted on a gaming forum. Say, you stop at your favorite Pokémon forum to ask for help, then someone who poses as a knowledgeable gamer provided responds and even provides a link that you can click for more help.
These things happen all the time. Once you click the link, a piece of software can be installed on your device that collects your data and secretly sends it to the authors (hackers). Some programs even help online criminals directly access users’ bank accounts.
All this doesn’t mean that you should stop playing games on your Google Nexus or HTC One. You just need to beware of the risks you face. More importantly, you should take the necessary measures to prevent any form of data theft on your device.
Start by keeping the device updated with the latest patches of the OS. Additionally, install a strong android antivirus such as Avast or Kaspersky. These solutions actively protect the smartphone without slowing down the game.