Many children these days play games online, and as harmless as this may seem, they are probably unaware that they are potential targets for cyber criminals. This is all thanks to the lure of online accounts full of parent’s credit card details and other less obvious information which can be monetized.
Although your son or daughter may be using secured gaming platforms like Steam marketplace, this is not enough. They can still be duped by scams such as infected screensaver files or “cheats” poisoned by malware.
This applies to gaming forums as well. It is highly likely that your child is turning to more experience players for gaming advice but unfortunately, some of the threads can be full of trick advice, and in-game chat channels play host to predators waiting for that click on a ‘bad’ link which infects your child’s device.
Luckily for parents everywhere, we have compiled nine tips on how to keep your little gamers safe.
1. A security solutionInstall a reliable security solution onto your child’s gaming device and make sure it’s always updated. Cyber criminals never sleep, the same goes for the defences protecting your kids. Be aware that your child may be turning it off for a tiny bit of extra speed or ignoring the pop-ups pointing to potential risks.
2. Toughen up the browserMany of the scams targeting gamers rely on people offering ‘bargain’ items in chat – either in-game or as a service such as Steam – and are then redirecting visitors to fraudulent sites. Make sure that the browser is up-to-date and the phishing warnings are enabled.
3. Credentials are valuableTeach your children the importance of their credentials and urge them to provide their credentials only to reliable websites and online services and be there to provide advice if they are unsure if a page is safe or not. In cases the child is unsure if the page is safe, be there for advice.
4. Don’t trade game code onlineTrading game code via forums, or even auction sites, is asking for trouble as there are numerous scams to avoid. The best place to get game codes is from gaming companies, buying the code for a new game online might end up costing you tens of euros for fake codes.
On the other hand, if you try to sell some old games your child is not playing anymore, scammers may claim that your code was bogus, asking for a refund and leaving you out of pocket.
5. Public gamingTeach your child how to act when connecting to public Wi-Fi, it’s key that kids are aware they are playing on a public network and particularly of all the risks it entails.
If your children are going to a gaming event or even a social gaming event, they should change their usual password for a temporary one while there, then back to the usual one when back home, this protects them from scammers who might intercept their data and use it to steal their account – or against someone looking over their shoulder to nick their password.
6. Help them pick the right usernameHaving a name that gives away that someone is young, can attract unwanted attention. Choose a tag, in-game name or forum alias that gives away absolutely no personal information – game accounts are high-value targets for cyber criminals.
7. Cheats and hacks are even worse than you thinkUsing cheats might not only mean risking a lifetime ban from a game your little player loves – it also endangers his or her account. An estimated 90 per cent of the commonly-traded cheats are infected with malware, they’re called ‘hacks’ for a reason.
8. Don’t befriend people on Facebook to get game ‘freebies’Facebook games that rely on topping up energy or trading with friends can be an easy lure for children. Fan sites are full of people offering to befriend anybody for just that purpose. Although this can speed up the game experience, it leaves children with “friends” who might well be criminals, able to see their information.
9. People on forums are not your friendsGamer forums and in-game chat channels are pretty savage, hostile places at best – and when it comes to scams, add-ons, mods or anything out there, they are an unsavory place for a child to find advice. Your children probably know not to trust strangers on the street, teach them to apply this to the online world too.
Mark James is a security specialist at ESET