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Grand Theft Data

Identity theft, mugging and sweatshops. Not something you would think could be a problem, whilst playing computer games. Along with viruses, worms and malicious software, these can all be threats whilst enjoying exploring virtual worlds as connected platforms offer easier opportunities to attack, compromise and steal data.

You think you’re fighting someone in a virtual world but you may be fighting them in the real world. Identity theft is a very common issue. Many games require a lot of personal information to join, malicious individuals will try to steal it to establish accounts in your name, resell it or access your bank details.

‘Virtual mugging’ is a term made popular by users of the game Linage II. Players used software applications online called ‘bots’ to defeat other player’s characters and take their items. South Korea, a country with many active gamers has reported over 22,000 virtual mugging incidents. Sweatshops can also be put under the virtual umbrella. The rise of virtual items and currency being exchanged for real money has spawned the virtual sweatshop. Workers from third world countries are economically exploited by people seeking new ways to profit from online economies.

Viruses, worms and malicious software usually affect your computer via email as an attachment or instant messaging programmes. They are more frequently being used in computer gaming to target and steal money. Corrupt or malicious programs can be hidden in game files you download or software you install. This malicious software is specifically designed to damage, disrupt, steal, or in general inflict some other “bad” or illegitimate action on your data or network.

It is important to keep yourself as safe as possible whilst gaming online.

  • Make sure the game vendor is reputable, if the game is free, the chances are it may conceal malicious software.
  • If a game requests you to use your computer in ‘administrator mode’ this could suggest it is poorly written and potentially dangerous.  Wherever possible your user account is the safer option. If you must use administrator mode, keep the password private.
  • Play the game directly at the game site.
  • Educate your children on cyber safety and supervise their online games
  • Make sure your software is up to date
  • Have effective firewalls in place
  • Ensure you have up to date anti-virus software.

Although we have looked into some of the negative aspects of online gaming, there are numerous positives. As well as developing new industries and sources of revenue, gaming is a major source of entertainment and has introduced new uses of the imagination to millions of people. If you take sensible security precautions you can continue to enjoy your online escape, just be cautious and remember if it looks too good to be true – it probably is.

October 2017

Grand Theft Data  
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