The global gaming community, which currently accounts for nearly half of the world’s population, has found itself increasingly under fire by cybercriminals, according to a comprehensive investigation by Kaspersky. In the period spanning from July 2022 to July 2023, the cybersecurity company discovered the growing vulnerability of the gaming user base. Cybercriminals exploited this vast community to access personal data, launching a range of attacks, including web vulnerabilities, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, cryptocurrency mining, and complex Trojan or phishing campaigns.
In the period from July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023, Kaspersky’s solutions detected a substantial 4,076,530 attempts to download 30,684 unique files masked as popular games, mods, cheats, and other game-related software. These incidents affected 192,456 users worldwide. These files – primarily classified as unwanted software and often labeled as not-a-virus:Downloader (89.7%), – are not innately perilous, but they are capable of downloading various other programs, even malicious ones, onto the user’s device. Adware (5.3%) and Trojans (2.4%) were also noteworthy threats to desktop gamers.
Minecraft emerged as the favoured target among cybercriminals, responsible for triggering 70.3% of all alerts. The threats using Minecraft as bait impacted 130,619 players across the globe during the reporting period. Roblox was the second most targeted game title, contributing to 20.4% of all alerts affecting 30,367 users. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (4.8%), PUBG (2.9%), Hogwarts Legacy (0.6%), DOTA 2 (0.5%), and League of Legends (0.3%) were also among the prominent games subjected to cyber threats.
The mobile gaming community, which, according to the Newzoo 2023 report consists of over three billion gamers, or nearly 40% of the world’s population, is characterised by its significant growth and accessibility, and has become an enticing target for cybercriminals. Between July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023, Kaspersky documented 436,786 attempts to infect mobile devices, impacting 84,539 users.
Various game titles were employed as bait to target mobile gamers. Minecraft enthusiasts once again were the primary targets, as 90.4% of attacks focused on the 80,128 gamers who fell victim. Indonesian users in particular faced exploitation through Minecraft, resulting in a Trojan.AndroidOS.Pootel.a attack, discreetly registering mobile subscriptions. Iran witnessed the highest prevalence of these attacks, with 140,482 alerts impacting 54,467 Minecraft players.
PUBG: Battlegrounds Battle Royale, was the second most exploited mobile game among cybercriminals, accounted for 5.09% of all alerts, with the majority of incidents originating from Russian Federation users. Roblox (3.33%) ranked third in terms of detections but second in the number of affected users.
A noteworthy discovery involves the emergence of SpyNote, a spy Trojan distributed among Roblox users on the Android mobile platform under the guise of a mod. This Trojan exhibits various spying capabilities, including keylogging, screen recording, video streaming from phone cameras, and the ability to impersonate Google and Facebook applications to deceive users into divulging their passwords.
Phishing and counterfeit distribution pages continue to pose a significant threat to gamers. Malicious and undesired software often masquerades as popular games, disseminated through third-party websites offering pirated versions. These deceptive pages typically display inflated download counts, potentially misleading users into a false sense of security. Nonetheless, clicking the download button typically results in an archive that may contain harmful or unrelated elements, diverging from the promised content.
“In the dynamic gaming industry, which hosts a wealth of personal and financial data, cybercriminals are seizing enticing opportunities. They exploit gaming accounts by pilfering in-game assets, virtual currency, and selling compromised gaming accounts, often with real-world value. The relentless pursuit of personal data has led to a surge in ransomware attacks, even affecting professional gamers who depend on uninterrupted play. This underscores the critical need for enhanced cybersecurity awareness within the gaming community,” comments Vasily Kolesnikov, cybersecurity expert at Kaspersky.
See the full report on Securelist.com.
To stay safe while gaming, Kaspersky recommends:
- It is safer to download your games from official stores like Steam, Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon Appstore only. Games from these markets are not 100% secure, but at least they are checked by store representatives and there is some kind of screening process: not every app can be made available in these stores.
- If you wish to buy a game that is not available through the main stores, purchase them from the official website only. Double-check the URL of the website and make sure it is authentic.
- Beware of phishing campaigns and unfamiliar gamers. Do not open links received by email or in a game chat unless you trust the sender. Do not open files you get from strangers.
- Do not download pirated software or any other illegal content, even if you are redirected to it from a legitimate website.
- A strong, reliable security solution will be a great help to you, especially if it will not slow down your computer while you are playing, but at the same time, it will protect you from all possible cyberthreats. For example, Kaspersky Total Security works smoothly with Steam and other gaming services.
- Use a robust security solution to protect yourself from malicious software and its activity on mobile devices, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android.