The gaming industry, once a niche sector, has now entered the mainstream. This change is noticeable particularly in India, where the industry has seen a surge in popularity, especially during the pandemic. The pandemic driven lockdown led to a 50% growth in the gaming industry’s turnover in India, with the national average gaming time spent by users reaching 4.1 hours post-COVID from the pre-COVID average of 2.5 hours (TOI).
However, this rampant rise in online activities has paralleled an increase in cyber attacks, making cybersecurity in the gaming industry a non-negotiable aspect of our lives.
According to cybersecurity firm NortonLifeLock, 75 per cent of gamers surveyed in India have experienced a cyberattack on their gaming account. About 35 per cent of them detected malicious software on a gaming device while 29 per cent detected unauthorised access to an online gaming account (The Hindu).
This blog delves into the threats and challenges faced by the gaming industry and emphasises the need for cybersecurity in the gaming industry.
The Gaming Industry: A Cybersecurity Target
The gaming industry has burgeoned into a multi-billion-dollar sector, boasting millions of active users globally (News18). This immense popularity, coupled with the extensive amount of user data and financial transactions processed daily, makes it a veritable goldmine for cybercriminals. Games often involve real-money transactions for in-game assets and players regularly store personal information and payment details on their accounts. If a data breach occurs in any of these in-game purchases games, it can have disastrous consequences on both the gamers and everyone involved in the production of the game. Cybersecurity in the gaming industry is thus vital.
Common Cybersecurity Threats in Gaming
The gaming industry, with its vast user base and financial success, is a common target for cyber threats. Here are some of the most common threats challenging cybersecurity in the gaming industry :
Account hacking involves unauthorised access to a player’s gaming account, often to steal in-game assets, personal information or even hijack the account entirely. This is one of the major challenges of cybersecurity in the gaming industry.
DDoS Attacks on Game Servers
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks target game servers with the intention of overwhelming them with a flood of internet traffic, resulting in server outages and degraded performance. DDoS attacks are another common threat to cybersecurity in the gaming industry.
Cheating and Game Exploits
Cheaters use various hacks, cheats, and exploits to gain an unfair advantage in games. This can include aimbots, wallhacks or exploiting bugs in the game. One example is the “Lag Switching” technique used in online multiplayer games, where a player intentionally induces lag, disrupting the gameplay for others to gain an unfair advantage. Cheating and game exploits are another aspect of a cybercrime threatening the cybersecurity in the gaming industry that needs to be addressed.
Phishing Scams in Virtual Economies
Phishing scams involve tricking players into revealing their login credentials or other sensitive information, often by posing as official game support or offering in-game rewards.
Best Practices for Gamers
Ensuring the safety and security of your gaming experience goes beyond just the responsibilities of game developers and platform providers. Gamers themselves play a crucial role in maintaining a secure gaming environment. Here are some of the key practices every gamer should adopt:
Safe Downloads and In-Game Purchases
Only download games, mods, and other content from official and trusted sources. Avoid third-party websites that may offer games or in-game items at a reduced price, as these could be malicious. When making in-game purchases, use secure and well-known payment methods.
Avoiding Suspicious Links and Emails
Be vigilant of phishing attempts. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown sources. Be careful of emails or messages that ask for your login information or personal details, even if they appear to be from official sources.
Using a secure network
Gamers should use a secure network and a VPN when they are gaming online. Using public Wi-Fi or shared devices should be avoided as it could expose their data to hackers or snoops. A VPN can encrypt one’s traffic and hide their IP address, making it harder for attackers to track or intercept your online activities.
Security Measures for Game Developers
Game developers are entrusted with vast amounts of personal and financial information from players. It is their responsibility to implement strong encryption and secure database practices to protect this data from unauthorised access. Developers need to monitor continuously and patch any gameplay vulnerabilities and provide mechanisms for reporting and addressing cheating.
Developers should be well-versed in secure coding practices and be aware of common vulnerabilities specific to game development, such as injection attacks, cross-site scripting (XSS) and security misconfigurations. Implementing secure coding practices from the onset of development helps in identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities early, reducing the risk of security breaches.
To bolster security in game development, a variety of tools and resources are used by developers. Here are a few noteworthy ones:
- Static Application Security Testing (SAST): Tools that analyse source code for known vulnerabilities.
- Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST): Tools that analyse the application in runtime to find vulnerabilities that might not be visible in the source code.
- Penetration Testing: Employing ethical hackers to actively try and exploit vulnerabilities in the game or gaming platform.
Cybersecurity and E-sports
E-sports tournaments are characterised by their distributed nature, often involving players from various geographical locations. The stakes in these tournaments are incredibly high due to substantial prize money and sponsorships, making them an enticing target for cybercriminals.
Moreover, E-sports events are frequently live-streamed, creating potential vulnerabilities. Among these challenges there are also some specific risks involved with it, some of them are :-
Data Breaches : A breach could expose sensitive data, leading to identity theft or doxing (publishing private information with malicious intent).
Social Engineering Attacks : Attackers may pose as tournament organisers or sponsors to trick players into revealing login credentials or downloading malware.
Insider Threats: There is also the risk of insider threats, where players, coaches, or staff might manipulate results or leak sensitive strategies.
Given these challenges, there is an urgent need for robust security measures in the e-sports industry. Some of these security measures encompass :
Secure Infrastructure: E-sports events should be hosted on secure and resilient infrastructure, capable of withstanding DDoS attacks and other threats.
Player Education and Training: Players need to be educated on cybersecurity best practices, including how to secure their accounts and recognise phishing attempts.
Fair Play Monitoring: Implementing tools and mechanisms to monitor gameplay in real-time can help in detecting and preventing cheating or use of exploits.
Future Trends in Gaming Security
The gaming industry has experienced tremendous growth and evolution over the years, but we are also witnessing some emerging trends which need to be acknowledged.
- Blockchain for In-Game Transactions:
Blockchain technology offers a decentralised and secure way to conduct transactions. In the gaming industry, it can be used to facilitate in-game purchases, ensuring that transactions are transparent, tamper-proof, and secure.
- AI-Powered Cheat Detection:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being leveraged to detect and prevent cheating in online games. Machine learning models can analyse player behaviour, identify patterns associated with cheating, and take appropriate action.
- Enhanced Cloud-Based Security:
As more gaming platforms move to the cloud, there is a need for enhanced security measures to protect data and prevent unauthorised access.
In the expansive and ever-evolving gaming landscape, cybersecurity in the gaming industry has risen to become a paramount shield. The richness of user data and the sheer volume of financial transactions processed daily within this domain make it an irresistible target for cybercriminals.
In conclusion, the intertwining of gaming and cybersecurity in the gaming industry is a necessity today. As gamers, developers and members of this vibrant community, we must all play our part in prioritising cybersecurity in the gaming industry, ensuring that the gaming world remains a safe, fair, and enjoyable space for all. The future of gaming is bright and boundless, and together, we can create a path where security and fun coexist in harmony.
The Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence (CCoE) is a dynamic tech ecosystem of startups, companies, and innovators based in Hyderabad, India. Our primary mission is to develop effective cybersecurity solutions, foster a safe cyberspace and make India the global cybersecurity hub. CCoE is a joint effort between the Government of Telangana and DSCI, created to boost India’s IT ecosystem. We achieve our goals by incubating startups, organizing workshops, providing training programs, participating in local and international initiatives, and much more.