A leading cyber-security expert is warning gamers and their parents to be aware of the risks involved using popular consoles.
Security Director of C3IA Solutions, a leading cyber-security company, Matt Horan, said gaming could be the next big victim of organised hacking campaigns.
With Christmas on its way, many people are expecting to receive a console and hackers will be ready.
The huge rise in network gaming – in which players compete across the internet – has increased the opportunities for malevolent interference.
Most gaming hackers started with the aim to win games, but now their motivation is likely to have moved on to a focus on profit, and maybe even child grooming.
A new era of gaming
Matt Horan, of the cyber-security firm headquartered in Poole, Dorset, said: “As we know, the day of playing on an X-box or PlayStation only connected to your TV is long gone.
“Gamers are using technology and servers that no longer work in isolation; it is all about networked gaming.
“Security has not been embedded into many gaming platforms due to the need to share information and also the need for high processing speeds and graphic.
“Three quarters of gamers worry about the security of their platforms, but more than 50 percent of them re-use passwords across multiple gaming accounts. On average, each gamer has experienced five cyber-attacks.
“Accounts with large amounts of in-game currency – credits that you build up by completing various stages, or access to rare, prestigious in-game items – can, if stolen, fetch high real-world prices.
“Online and mobile gaming platforms gather a large amount of data about their users, some of it game related and some more personal.
“The more personal the data, the more valuable it is to hackers – and mobile games often track such intimate information as location, their engagement, and even phone calls.”
This year games such as Fortnite and Minecraft, popular among younger audiences, were huge, and also became the top two most watched video games on YouTube.
Both of these games, and others like them, work through online servers, and are online multiplayer games.
Stay safe online
Matt Horan added: “There are things you can do to minimise the risk; be phishing aware – look for fake sites and emails; use different passwords or passphrases for each game; use a good antivirus product that supports gaming; if enabled, use the multi-factor authentication; ideally select a gaming vendor that has security at the front of its services with credible certifications that it openly advertises.
“Furthermore, parents can assist by making these risks clear to their children who might be using their first gaming console.
“Gaming is a huge industry now and has successfully moved into the ‘sports’ sector with international competitions and big sponsorship deals.”
The gaming industry is worth an estimated £115 billion worldwide with almost half of that from mobile games.