As the COVID-19 forced lockdowns around the world in 2020, the gaming industry was hit by a wave of web attacks by cybercriminals who looked to exploit the increased volume of online gamers which reached record highs.
The number of both active users and concurrent users actively playing games on platforms such as Steam (the most popular online gaming platform, community, and store) reached nearly 27 million users according to recent data provided.
Kaspersky researchers found a significant increase in the number of web antivirus detections for sites with names that exploit the gaming theme (i.e. names of popular games and platforms): a 54% increase in the daily number of blocked redirects in April 2020 when compared to January 2020.
Even after lockdowns subsided in 2020, the number of web attacks exploiting the gaming theme continued to rise, reaching an all-time high in November 2020 of nearly 2,500,000.
According to researchers, after a decline at the beginning of 2021, the number of web attacks has once again been increasing, reaching 1,125,010 in April 2021, an increase of 34%.
As was the case in 2020, the most popular game used as a lure is Minecraft, although as 2021 continues, Counter Strike: Global Offensive has steadily been overtaking Minecraft as the most popular game used as bait, notes the research.
Commenting, Maria Namestnikova, Head of Russia’s Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) at Kaspersky said,“There are currently an unprecedented number of gamers in the world—nearly 3 billion—and it’s proven to be a great way to relax against the ongoing disruption”.
“Of course, that does mean cyber attackers will remain interested in the industry, and, given that more and more people are gaming on their work devices, this puts company resources at risk. However, gamers can still safely enjoy playing. They just need to follow basic cybersecurity best practices,” she added.
To stay safe from attacks while gaming, experts recommend:
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible to protect your video-gaming accounts.
- Be wary of any cheats and pirated copies of video games since it’s one of the favorite lures used by cybercriminals.
- Use a strong, reliable security solution that won’t slow down your computer while you’re playing.
- It’s safer to buy games only on official sites and wait for the sales — they take place fairly often, so you won’t be sitting on your hands for long.
- Beware of phishing campaigns and unfamiliar gamers. It’s a good option to double-check the website you are redirected to via the link in the received email and the extension of a file you are going to open.