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54% rise in gaming-related cyber attacks recorded in April

As lockdown and isolation measures were enacted across the world in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, engagement in at-home entertainment activities predictably skyrocketed – gaming, in particular, saw massive increases in user engagement.

According to Newzoo, the global gaming market will generate revenues of US$159.3 billion in 2020 – a 9.3% increase year-on-year. On Steam, the most popular online gaming platform, community and store, users swelled ‘significantly’, with the platform reaching an all-time record for both active users and concurrent users actively playing games by March 30.

But, as many have learned during this pandemic, where there are massive, obvious and international trends, cybercriminals will not be far away, ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

Kaspersky noticed this trend, and upon investigation, unsurprisingly found many instances of cyber attackers exploiting this increased engagement in video games: in April there was a 54% increase in the daily number of attempts to direct users to malicious sites from gaming platforms, or using gaming themes, when compared to January.

Users are typically lured from their game by promises on the interface of free versions of games, updates or cheats. But if they click on the links, malicious programs like malware, ransomware and miners can be downloaded.

Unsurprisingly, the world’s best-selling video game, Minecraft, was the most popular target for cyber attackers, used in more than 130,000 web attacks, according to Kaspersky. Other popular games used in attacks were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and The Witcher 3.

Kaspersky has also reported a 40% increase in the number of blocked redirects to phishing pages that contained the word ‘Steam’ in April compared to February this year.

“Many of these video game-related attacks are not particularly sophisticated; there is a large user component to their success,” says Kaspersky security expert Maria Namestnikova.

“The past few months have shown that users are highly susceptible to falling for phishing attacks or clicking on malicious links when it comes to games—whether they’re looking to find pirated versions or eager for a cheat that will help them win.”

Experts say that users should be wary of using the same computers to both game and conduct business on.

“Now that many players started using the same machines that they use to enter corporate networks for games, their cautiousness should be doubled: risky actions make not only personal data or money vulnerable but also corporate resources,” says another Kaspersky security expert, Yury Namestnikov.

“When working from home, if possible, try to avoid mixing your personal computer with the one you use for accessing the corporate network.”