Kane: Video games pose serious cyber risks
More children are playing games online than ever before, but today's games are a lot different than how they used to be.
In the past, if you were playing on your PlayStation, it was likely just up against a friend or sibling who was right next to you. Now, kids can play with strangers around the world due to games' online connectivity.
With over 900,000 games available in app stores, it's difficult to keep track of the many ways users may be vulnerable. Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific understands parents want their children to be safe while playing and that many use parental controls. But realize, scammers are finding new ways to get to children. So, since October is Cybersecurity Month, BBB is talking about how to stay safe.
One of the main scams aimed at players is offering free, in-game currency. What happens: The user is playing, and a message will pop up in, typically, in the upper left-hand side. Players are told to click the link in the message, which directs them to an outside site where they are prompted to give their username, password and other personally identifiable information.
Unfortunately, in many cases, there is no free currency and their identity within the game has been hacked. Scammers use the victim's account to scam others, like the player's friends and family.
Along with currency scams, children can be taken advantage of by participating in the social aspect of these games. During their experience exploring these digital worlds, interactions with other players in the unmoderated chat feature could leave younger players exposed to players of all ages.
Like many online multiplayer games, there is little to no control over who is playing. Even though strict chat filters can be activated — blocking inappropriate words and phrases — children are still susceptible to being targeted by online predators. These social functions are often used as a platform to lure children away from the game and onto other platforms, such as Facebook, Snapchat and even in some cases Skype.
Finally, a particularly risky way scammers target players is by directing them to a link that downloads an executable program (.exe), often advertised as "hacks" or "exploits" onto the user's computer. When executed, the program injects malicious code into the system to gain information and provide complete control of the user's desktop. This not only compromises a user's account, but their entire computer. This can include banking data, passwords and other sensitive information. The scammer can use this information to make fraudulent purchases with any credit-cards hooked up to the gaming account.
We realize the world of online video games is the new norm. So, BBB advocates for parents to educate themselves on how their children's games work. Here are our tips to protect yourself and your children:
• Be cautious of links. If an advertisement pops up while playing a game, don't click on it. If you end up on one of these links, do not enter personal information.
• Strengthen your password. Creating a strong password and changing passwords regularly can keep you from being hacked by scammers.
• Set boundaries. The online gaming community often opens doors to new friendships with other players, but make sure that you do not exchange personal information with someone online that you do not know.
Along with these tips, throughout the month of October, BBB is releasing cyber-safety tips and articles to help consumers and businesses stay vigilant on a variety of topics. Articles and a cybersecurity toolkit can be found at BBB.org/BBBSecure.
Danielle Kane is Portland marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific, covering Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.
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