In the first half of 2022, Kaspersky researchers detected an increase in the activity of cybercriminals targeting online gamers. The number of users attacked by malicious software, which gathers sensitive data and spreads under the guise of some of the most popular gaming titles, has increased by 13% compared to the first half of 2021.
In attempts to download new games from untrustworthy resources for free, players actually received malicious software, losing their gaming accounts and even money. These and other findings are part of the gaming-related threats report issued by Kaspersky.
To assess the current landscape in gaming risks, Kaspersky experts observed the most popular PC and mobile games-related threats. Overall, between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, Kaspersky security solutions detected more than 384,000 users affected by almost 92,000 malicious or unwanted unique files that mimicked 28 games or series of games.
In addition to the large number of downloaders that are able to install other unwanted programs, and adware, Kaspersky researchers even detected Trojan-Spies — a category of spyware capable of tracking any data entered on the keyboard and taking screenshots.
The research also revealed a growth in attacks made with malicious software that steals sensitive data from infected devices. It included Trojan-PSW, which gathers victims’ credentials, Trojan-Banker, that steals payment data, and Trojan-GameThief, which collects login information for gaming accounts.
The number of unique files used to infect users also increased in the first half of 2022 by nearly a quarter, compared to the same period in 2021: 1,868 and 1,530 files, respectively.
Most often, users receive malicious files when they try to download games not from official sites, but from third-party webpages. This is especially true if a new game is quite expensive and the player wants to save money by finding a copy for free on untrustworthy sites. However, they will lose much more than if they had bought a legitimate version. For example, many malicious files steal login information for gaming accounts, banking details, and even crypto wallet data by infecting devices.
Attackers purposely seek to spread threats under the guise of games that either have a huge captive audience or that have only recently been released and are constantly on gamers’ radars. Well-known games such as Roblox, FIFA or Minecraft, for example, as well as the new parts of big series of games, released during the last year: Elden Ring, Halo, and Resident Evil – were actively abused by attackers who spread RedLine malware under their guise.
To stay safe while gaming, Kaspersky recommends:
1. It is safer to download your games from official stores like Steam, Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon Appstore only. Games from these markets are not 100 % secure, but they at least are checked by store representatives and there is some kind of screening system: not every app can get into these stores.
2. If you wish to buy a game that is not available through major stores, purchase them from the official website only. Double-check the URL of the website and make sure it is authentic.
3. Beware of phishing campaigns and unfamiliar gamers. Do not open links received by email or in a game chat unless you trust the sender. Do not open files you get from strangers.
4. Do not download pirated software or any other illegal content, even if you are redirected to it from a legitimate website.
5. A strong, reliable security solution will be a great help to you, especially if it will not slow down your computer while you are playing, but at the same time, it will protect you from all possible cyberthreats. For example, Kaspersky Total Security works smoothly with Steam and other gaming services.
6. Use a robust security solution to protect yourself from malicious software and its activity on mobile devices, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android.