It’s no secret that the online gaming industry is the future. According to a report by games data analysis platform Newzoo, there were 2.69 billion gamers across the globe in 2020. That total will reach an estimated 3.07 billion gamers by the end of 2023, and there’s no doubt that the number will steadily rise over the next decade.

Online gaming is not just for entertainment alone, but has also become a source of livelihood and profit for many people. The global gaming market is projected to be valued at $256.97 billion by 2025. The gaming industry has come a long way in terms of more than just profit in recent years, too. Today, gaming is more than a hobby for many people; it’s a passion, and one that even offers the potential for a legitimate career path and the ability to connect with other gamers around the world.

But for the many positive things that could come out of playing online games, it also carries some risks, especially in terms of your personal security. Online games may expose your personal information to identity thieves—unless you know how to stop them. In this article, we’ll cover the risks of online gaming and what you need to know to protect yourself.

How does online gaming put your security at risk?

Online games may be fun, but they have a dark side, too. Establishing a high level of awareness about possible security risks of playing online games will not only protect you from harm, but can also optimize your gaming experience.

1. Unsafe servers

Any online game brings a certain level of security risk because it is always connected to a server that could be compromised or hacked. If the online game server is corrupted, there is a chance that the devices and the accounts connected to it could be compromised as well. Since servers carry the confidential personal data that you shared when you created your online account, your information will be exposed, too.

Using firewall protection, installing Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates, and running all recent upgrades in your online game’s software can help protect you against unsafe game servers.

2. Unsecured public Wi-Fi areas

Free public Wi-Fi hotspots are common commodities nowadays, but it does not mean that you can use it to its full extent without exposing yourself to security risk. The downside of using free public Wi-Fi is that your phone or computer could be infected with malware that comes from the Wi-Fi provider or an individual who is using the same network connection.

If you are not sure of the safety of a public Wi-Fi connection, you can always use a virtual private network (VPN) connection to combat any potential harm. A VPN may sometimes slow down your connection speed, but it’s a small price to pay for gaining some level of safety.

3. Phishing

Phishing emails are also a source of security risk in the online gaming industry. When you receive a message from an email address that asks you to fill out your login details and other personal information, first make sure that it is the verified email address of the game developer. You can easily catch phishing emails by simply noticing whether the sender’s email address seems off. If you’re at all uncertain, a quick web search will allow you to verify that address—and could save you from malware and other cyber attacks.

4. Online gaming malware

Along with the fact that downloading pirated online games is illegal, you’re also putting your computer or handheld device in danger. Malware from an online game download could come in the form of viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, and adware, all of which could easily breach your device through a pirated or malicious version of the game that you just downloaded.

To protect your device and personal data from malware infection, always try to verify that all downloadable contents come from a legitimate game developer or marketplace. Avoid downloading free pirated versions of an online game as that could cost you a whole lot more in the long run.

5. Tracking of your location

Have you played Pokemon Go before? While it’s fun to play an online game set in augmented reality (AR), there is also a risk to your privacy and security. AR games track your real location, and this could set you up for privacy invasion and security breach. 

Luckily, there are ways to play these types of games safely. When playing an AR game, make sure that you’re not in a location that you deem confidential and very personal to you. Also, always check that you have turned off any location tracking after you’re done playing the game.

6. Access to your webcam and microphone

If you’re playing an online multiplayer game with a friend or a group of similarly-avid gamers that you met on the internet, chances are that you’re using a microphone or a camera to communicate with them. That could expose you to security risks, especially if there’s a person who is eavesdropping on your conversations or watching you stream your game on a social media platform.

Whether you’re streaming games for the benefit of online viewers or talking with your gamer friends online, always remember not to give out any personal information. This is a simple, but important way to protect yourself from identity theft and other security risks.

7. Keyloggers

A keylogger is a malware that has been a common culprit in stealing login details. It works by recording everything you type on the keyboard of your computer or handheld device, and it focuses on capturing your login credentials, particularly your passwords. If a keylogger successfully records your passwords, your account can then be accessed by the person operating the keylogger. As a result, there’s a great chance that cybercriminals will get hold of your personal information and data without your consent.

How can you protect yourself from online gaming security risks?

To optimize your gaming experience and make sure that you are playing in a secure online environment,  follow these safety precautions whenever possible.

1. Avoid sharing personal information with strangers

No matter how friendly or approachable a stranger is on an online gaming platform, you still shouldn’t trust them with your personal information. There are cybercriminals on the Internet who will go out of their way to gain your trust, and then use that against you to try to pry any confidential information from you that they can.

2. Update your passwords

Along with using stronger and more unpredictable combinations, you should also update your passwords frequentlu for all gaming accounts.. Changing passwords is very important especially in cases when you feel that someone else could be using your account or when you lose or change your devices. Updating your password reduces the risk of your online gaming account being hacked. It’s a good idea to change your passwords every three months.

3. Opt for two-factor authentication 

If there is an option to enable a two-factor authentication (2FA) in securing your online gaming account or your email, opt to use it. Enabling  two-factor authentication will require not just your login credentials, but also a second verification code that is only accessible through your phone or other device. Even if cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to your password, they won’t be able to access your account because they don’t have the means to see the next verification code on your phone or tablet.

4. Use a verified VPN provider

When playing an online game, making use of a VPN will allow you to encrypt your traffic, which won’t allow any hackers or intruders to see your real IP address. However, there are free VPN providers that contain malware or other means to record your login credentials and illegally access your personal data. The wise thing to do is to research legitimate VPN providers, and invest in them, even if it means paying a little bit for the service.

5. Invest in an identity protection solution

Along with protecting your device with an antivirus software, you can also invest in an identity protection provider to safeguard your personal information and other confidential data. When you’re playing an online game or trying to register your own account in a gaming network, you will be asked to share some personal data that could potentially expose you to security risks if your device is not equipped with identity protection.

Investing in the right identity theft protection

Fortunately, there are excellent identity protection providers such as LifeLock that offer a wide range of services to safeguard and protect your data. LifeLock offers all-in-one protection packages that include identity theft alerts, credit monitoring, bank account and credit card activity alerts, and a VPN for all your personal devices. Moreover, you can use LifeLock’s promo code to save up to 25% monthly for the first year of your membership on all LifeLock products!