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Online gaming is a fun and interactive activity for millions of people across the globe, but it's also a space where cyber criminals try to ruin your fun by sending malicious links, stealing credentials and payment card information, and much more.
Know how to protect yourself and your personal information while gaming online. Following these simple guidelines can prevent problems later.
Do your research
Mobile gaming makes up approximately 45% of the global games market. Just because a game is available on a trusted app store, it doesn’t mean it is a safe app to download. Before downloading any new gaming app on your device, make sure it’s a legitimate app. Check out the reviews and look it up online before downloading.
Length trumps complexity. A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember. And keep them unique. Do not use the same password for gaming accounts that you would use on your banking accounts, for example. Using multiple gaming platforms? Consider using a password manager.
Use 2-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (like biometrics, security keys or a unique, one-time code through an app on your mobile device) on all gaming accounts.
Secure your payment data
If you need to tie a specific payment method to your account, choose a credit card over a debit card. Credit cards come with more consumer protections than debit cards.
Keep all software on internet connected devices that you access games on– including personal computers, smartphones and tablets – current to reduce risk of infection from ransomware and malware. Configure your devices to automatically update or to notify you when an update is available. If you’re playing an app-based game on a device, make sure your app is updated regularly.
Cyber criminals will often try to entice gamers into clicking links or downloading malicious files by offering cheats, hacks, or other ways to gain an advantage over competitors. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting. If the offer seems too good to be true, chances are it is. Verify the link before clicking it by hovering over it with your cursor to see the link’s true destination.
Share with care
Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on gaming account profiles. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a criminal to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes, such as stalking. Err on the side of sharing less online.
Use secure Wi-Fi
Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, If you’re traveling and want to access your gaming to keep yourself entertained, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hotspot to give yourself a secure connection.
Additional Tips for Kids
Block the bullies
If another player is making you feel uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult. Remember that you can always kick a player out of the game if they are making you uncomfortable. Learn how to block and/or report another player if they are making you uncomfortable. Keep a record of what the other player said, but do not engage them.
Protect your personal information
Personal information is any information that can be used to identify you or your accounts. Examples include your name, address, phone number, usernames and passwords, pictures, birthday and social security number. If a stranger asks you to share this information, say no.
Play in disguise
Playing with people you don’t know or who aren’t your good friends? Use a safe Game Name: something cool like SecretNinja99 or LeTigreVerde. Don’t use your first or last name in your usernames. Use an avatar instead your actual photo. If a stranger asks you to share a photo or to turn on your webcam, say no.
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR PARENTS
Parental controls are a great way to establish parameters around what kids can and can’t do in their gaming environments, including limiting communications, limiting time spent, restricting e-commerce, etc. Parental controls do not replace candid discussions with your kids about online security and safety, but they are a good resource to have. The Entertainment Software Rating Board has parental control guides for most of the major gaming platforms.
Configure Privacy Settings
Go through accounts with children to configure privacy and security settings to limit over-sharing of information–such as location sharing. Walk the kids through why certain settings need to be changed.
Play the Game
Have your kids teach you how to play whatever games they are playing. Explore all the features with them, such as communications capabilities, profiles, how they engage with other players, etc. You will learn more about how they experience the game, will get to spend some quality time with your kid, and you might just realize you enjoy the game as well!