As you probably already know, the pandemic has made computer gaming more popular than ever and there is a good chance that this trend will continue until things go completely back to normal.
Gamers are usually tech savvy and this is bad news for cyber criminals because this means that they are a harder to trick than the average person. But, gamers do have a weakness, and it’s one that hackers around the world have recently taken advantage of. The internet has been flooded with poisoned cheat codes that act as bait for unsuspecting gamers.
So here’s how this works – the gamer first downloads a set of cheat codes for the game they’re playing. Inside the package is embedded malicious code that deploys back doors into the gamer’s computer, allowing hackers to deploy malware, log keystrokes, track passwords, download personal files and as a last resort, to extort the gamer for money by encrypting the computer and demanding a ransom to release it. Yikes!
What’s worse is that hackers have successfully launched supply chain attacks against game development companies. In some cases, they infected the machines of the game developers themselves and silently insert malicious back doors into the games that unknowingly infects the players’ computers. Security professionals tracking this trend now estimate that there could be hundreds of thousands of infected systems all around the world and has become a big problem.
If you’re a gamer or know someone who is, beware of cheat codes and too-good-to-be-true offers. You already know that scammers are lurking in your game right? Not everyone you’re interacting with in the game are just there to play to have fun. Just know that scammers are trying to get at you from multiple angles. So, I recommend the following 3-point strategy to have a safer gaming experience:
1. Be wary of free stuff Have you noticed how most things that at first appear to be free usually cost something down the line? The bill eventually comes due and you’re paying for it in fees, in handing over your surfing behavior, handing over your time or whatever. This isn’t news, but a good reminder to be skeptical of the true cost of what appears to be free.
2. Use the cloud to backup your files Most cloud backup providers (eg. OneDrive, Google, Dropbox, etc.) will stop syncing your files once it detects that ransomware is trying to encrypt them. This means that if your computer is hit with ransomware and your important files are synchronized with the cloud, it’s as simple as pulling the plug on the machine and putting it back to factory settings. Your important files should be safe in the cloud.
3. Use common sense In our heads, we have millions of years of evolutionary programming that helps guide us away from dangerous situations and although the computer age is pretty recent in comparison, we still have our “gut instincts” to rely on. Hey, it’s helped keep us alive so far! So trust your gut – if it’s sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So gamers, just know that the scammers have you on their radar, now more than ever. I’m Attila from Cylanda, stay safe out there!
PS. I was recently on the air with Jay Fidell of ThinkTech, talking about this year’s tax scams.