Gamer's Guide to Online Privacy and Security
News of DDoS attacks on game servers and large scale data breaches like those that have happened to GameStop and the Playstation Network make headlines on a regular basis. And while these stories are alarming, many gamers don't recognize the ways in which these problems can affect them directly. As a community that thrives online, it is important to take steps to mitigate the risks that affect gamers the most. Educate yourself and spread the word as part of the #GamersForPrivacy movement. Some of the most common risks are:
- DDoS attacks
- Compromised game accounts
- Disreputable game marketplaces
- Identity and information theft (when you expose your IP address)
Risk: Exposing Your IP Address
Exposing your IP address can put you at risk of malicious websites and people who wish to violate your privacy. Your IP address identifies your computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate. This means your IP address is visible to third-party websites trying to view your location, and your ISP is able to see the websites you visit, videos you watch and even who you're communicating with. Avoid using services that expose your IP, such as Skype. Never let your Skype username be visible on a Twitch stream. Malicious viewers can use online services to learn your local IP address using this information, and then track down your personal information, leaving you vulnerable to doxxing. If you are streaming on Twitch, exposing your IP address also leaves you open to DDoS attacks which can knock your stream offline.
Solution: Protect Your Privacy with a VPN
VyprVPN hides your IP by encrypting your Internet connection to keep your communications, data, location and other information private while online. A VPN service can exchange your personal IP address with a remote VPN server's IP address, creating a level of privacy that you could not otherwise achieve while on a public server. When using VPN (virtual private network) technology, all network traffic, from voice to text to video, goes through a secure passageway between the client's computer and the VPN server. VyprVPN offers 300,000+ IP addresses to ensure your true IP cannot be targeted for a DDoS attack and NAT Firewall allows you to block unrequested inbound traffic.
Risk: Compromised Game Accounts
With the risk of companies being hacked and massive password databases leaked, it's important to lock down your accounts. The site Have I Been Pwned can be used to check if any of your usernames or email addresses have been exposed in these data breaches. If a malicious user gains access to your game accounts you run the risk of losing access to your game library, being banned from a game or having your in-game items stolen and sold.
Solution: Unique Passwords and Two-Factor Authentication
When signing up for game accounts, make sure to create a username that does not reveal any personal information such as your real name or location. Use unique, complex passwords for each service and keep them all secure using password management software. Get in the habit of changing important passwords every 90 days, or any time you hear of a service data compromise. Using an encrypted email service like Tutanota to associate with your game accounts will help to avoid having your information compromised. Never open suspicious email attachments as these can be used to execute malicious software on your computer. Two-factor authentication will provide additional security by requiring a second source, such as a code texted to your phone or an app, to log in to your game accounts. Most of the leading game companies offer these services, which are easy to set up using the directions below.
TwoFactorAuth.org provides a detailed list of individual games and services that offer two-factor authentication. You can also use a VPN to protect your privacy on any public or unsecured connection, ensuring hackers and snoops can't intercept it and steal your information.
Risk: Disreputable Game Websites
Games can be an expensive hobby, so we understand that gamers often look for ways to save money on digital items. Unfortunately, some third-party resellers may sell you stolen goods and accounts, or could steal your credit card information. Many of these game key sales websites have millions of views per month and do not use HTTPS encryption, which leaves visitor information vulnerable to hackers. Another common phishing scheme targeting gamers are emails claiming that there is an issue with your game account. These emails look alarmingly genuine and often spoof official email accounts. But when you click on the link within the email, it brings you to a malicious website looking to steal your account or personal information.
Solution: Browse and Shop Smart Online
As the saying goes, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." If a site is claiming to sell you a game code at an extreme discount, be aware of the risks. The safest route to take is to only purchase games and in-game items from the official sources and authorized retailers such as Steam, Humble Bundle or GOG. All of these sources regularly have sales that can save you a lot of money on games. Never buy in-game items or game currency that are otherwise unavailable for sale by official sources. These real-money trading (RMT) schemes come from sources that should not be trusted and put you at risk of losing your game accounts. Never purchase anything from a website that doesn't use SSL encryption, denoted by the lock icon and the HTTPS prefix. Always use a VPN when shopping online while connected to unsecured public Wi-Fi. Get in the habit of regularly clearing your browser history to keep important information out of reach of potential third-party snoops. Don't click on links in emails, even if they look to be from official game accounts. If there is a genuine issue with your Blizzard account, for example, you can investigate by going directly to the account management page of their website or contacting customer support.