Online gaming: Six crucial steps to protect yourself and your data

Tuesday, 13 February, 2018

The world of online gaming is huge, globally there are half a billion people playing games online encompassing a wide range of genres.

Online gaming can be great fun and a very social activity, but like anything online it also comes with significant technical risks. You might also need to upgrade your broadband for more demanding online games.

Here we offer a six-step guide to keeping yourself safe and protected whether you’re sniping enemies, flying jet planes or fighting evil wizards.

The history boys

Online gaming first emerged as far back as 1973 with a game called Empire, the world’s first networked multiplayer arena shooter.

By 1984 the first online role-playing game called the Islands of Kesmai appeared. And in 1991 NeverWinter Nights, the first truly three-dimensional MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) had arrived.

The demographics for online gamers can be quite surprising. For instance, the average age of an online gamer is 31 and there are currently more gamers over 36 than there are within the age bracket of 18-35 or under 18.

Ladies first

64% of online gamers are women.

Sudoku and Farmville are particularly popular with female players but also included in their top five favourites is the fantasy series World of Warcraft.

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It may come as a surprise, but Malta is the European centre of the online gaming industry. It accounts for 11% of the island’s GDP and employs upwards of 8,000 people.

Currently it is estimated there are over 45.6 million online gamers in Europe. This is second only to Asia Pacific as the most populous region for gamers.

Six Steps to protect yourself when online gaming

1. Keep your personal details private

It goes without saying that it is vitally important to keep your details private whenever venturing online, the same goes for remote gamers. The hard and fast rule is to never reveal too much about yourself.

This can include your name, home town, address, school or workplace or which university you attend.

Such basic information is potentially valuable to hackers who will trawl their way through games looking for vulnerable targets.

2. Always play on a secure server

Whenever you join a new game online always check the server has the correct encryption and authentication before swinging that sword. If its not then your details are at risk, including any subscription details you may have entered.

There are websites that specialise in finding the most secure sites for gamers and are worth checking out.

3. Virtual worlds, virtual bullies

Just as with social media, trolls and bullies will target online gamers. A recent survey for the anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found that more than two-thirds of remote gamers had been targets of malicious trolling.

More: Call of Duty SWAT troll ends with man shot to death in front yard

Most online servers will have regulations against cyberbullying and if you are a victim then you should report them.

Check the site for the procedures involved in reporting issues and in the meantime, you can block any player who is causing you distress or anxiety.

4. Get DDoS protection

If you run your own hosting server for gaming, then you must provide DDoS protection.

It is also worthwhile checking if other servers also provide this. A DDoS attack is an attempt to overwhelm a site with mass traffic from multiple sources.

Hosting your own server is not complicated and will give you better control over issues such as updates and is often more stable than those offered by the game client.

It is well worth checking this out before embarking on your latest quest.

5. Check what you are downloading

Gaming can be a goldmine for hackers, as it involves interconnected devices. So, if one computer is infected then those connected will also be infected. Like any activities online the usual risks involve malware, viruses and Trojans.

Hackers can get you when you download updates or cheats, particularly from third-party sites. To minimise the risks only download from verified websites or from the game’s own sites.

6. Keep antivirus software updated

Always ensure you keep antivirus and antimalware software up to date. Regularly check for updates before beginning a game.

And it is highly recommended that you use a separate computer for gaming that doesn’t contain any of your personal details, especially separate from the device you keep banking details and confidential emails on.

MAIN IMAGE: Bago Games/CC BY 2.0

Tim Bamford author picture


Tim is a veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.