When you play video games, you are an ideal target to be destroyed by hackers.
Sure, you're tech-savvy – you know what a hard drive is and you've seen an HDMI cable or two on your day. Still, there are some unassailable, fully exploitable truths about gamers: they are very online. You sign up for many things. You have some money. You want to be better than other players. And they like to use the password "Dragon".
Earlier this year, hackers broke into the accounts of thousands of Fortnite players and exhausted hundreds of dollars at the same time. How? These players had used their username and password combinations elsewhere on the World Wide Web. And somehow they leaked out. Now they are asking for large refunds and hurrying to protect themselves from further financial damage. It was an avoidable disaster. And we are here to teach you how to prevent this.
Here are some tips on how to play it safe while playing.
What is important when it comes to security?
Everything is important. It sucks to hear, I know. Security is like a balloon. If there is only one hole, it is no longer a balloon. If you have unique passwords for your Blizzard and Epic Games accounts in your gaming apps, but not for the accounts of your five favorite game forums, and if you use the same passwords for PayPal, Email, or Facebook, you are prone to hacking.
Password leaks occur constantly on all types of websites. For example, hackers can enter your niche password for the Everquest forum on your banking page if you use the same password for both. And then you're screwed. As simple as that.
Think of everything you have an account for. Your PlayStation Network account, your Microsoft account, your Battle.Net account, your Steam account, your Reddit account … if you add it up, that's a lot! And each of these accounts contains at least some personal information, whether it's your first and last name or your credit card number.
Staying vigilant with so many reports can seem daunting, but with good habits, keeping everything in check can be taken for granted.
Where should I start?
Start with your passwords. We all know that Password123 is easy to guess. But that's "dragon". "StarWars", "Monkey" and "Football" are very common for the same reason – it turns out that a lot of people like popular stuff. It's also likely that your unique, entertaining password you've kept since fourth grade – maybe "Pikachu" – is just as easy to find out.
You must have crazy passwords for everything. According to our sister site Lifehacker, passwords that are long and contain numbers, capital letters and symbols are great.
Changing your passwords is tedious, but it's worth it at the end of a security breach. Take a few days to record which websites and apps you use regularly. It likely contains a combination of Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Discord, and Amazon. For gamers, this list can include Battle.net, Steam, or Xbox Live. Write everything down. Then…..
Download a password manager
You simply cannot remember 20 very secure passwords. If you can, your passwords are probably not secure. You need a password manager. Many password managers can even help you find secure passwords.
Since browser-based password managers like the one in Opera have already been hacked, I recommend downloading a password manager to your phone. I use LastPass. Other people like 1Password. This way, all you have to do is remember the password for your password manager (or you can just use your fingerprint).
Activate two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is a fancy way of saying, "The app prompts you to verify yourself." When you register for something, you will only receive a text message or an email with an additional code. You can also get a special app that generates this code on your phone. No one can log into your account if they don't enter this code in the client.
Choosing two-factor authentication can mean the difference between someone else logging into your MMORPG account and stealing all of your hard-earned gold and what isn't happening. Obtaining a two-factor authentication code when you are not trying to log into something is also a great way to tell that someone is trying to hack you!
Many gaming apps allow you to enable two-factor authentication. Here is a list from TwoFactorAuth.org and links to instructions on how to activate it:
If you just flipped through this and asked yourself, "Where's League of Legends?" or another service not listed, then I have some advice for you: email them! Make sure you know you want this security feature. A basic two factor is worth a claim.
Here's a fun fact: Random Call of Duty players you add as friends on your PlayStation may be able to see your first and last name! Maybe that's cool with you. Maybe it's not. In any case, you should know if you are losing personal information that you do not want to lose.
Your PlayStation, Xbox, Steam account, etc. all have privacy settings. The switch has very limited customization options here. However, this is because Nintendo Friends' online service doesn't show your real name anyway. You should familiarize yourself with the privacy and security settings for all of your gaming accounts and modulate them to your liking. For example, the PlayStation network settings ask whether people on your friends list should see your real name. Microsoft blocks the real names of Xbox users by default, although there was a bug that temporarily exposed people's names. Now you can even hide on Steam how few hours you actually played on PlayerUnknown's battlefields.
Wow, free Fortnite V-Bucks! Booyah! I just have to enter my social security number on the website f0rtn1te.net!
Nothing cool is free when playing online. Even if all of your passwords are perfect and you have two factors enabled for everything, this does not prevent you from falling for hacking tricks.
Any website or person offering free video game skins, currencies, etc. is dodgy, especially if someone else's message about you is online. If you receive an email from someone else's address telling you that your Elder Scrolls Online account has been compromised and you need to give it your username and password, enter that address into Google to ensure that it is legitimate is.
Sometimes hackers copy the appearance of websites that you visit frequently so that their fraud is considered legitimate. If a website starts with https: // and not https: //, this can be a red flag. If the website is https://www.ep1cgames.com and not https://www.epicgames.com, this is a big red flag. If the website prompts you to download something before proceeding, and that something is not Adobe Flash Player, Google what it is before it is automatically downloaded. Most computers these days have decent anti-virus software that lets you know if you're downloading malicious malware. However, it doesn't hurt to double them. Here are some great options.
Do not pass on your personal data
A decade ago, your parents probably warned you about the "strangers" and "dangerous people" that haunt the AOL chat rooms. Maybe they said telling MMO buddies your first name could mean inviting a 50-year-old mouth breathing to stand in front of your window all night. We've been online long enough to know that most of the people who play online games won't follow you because you told them which city you live in. Even so, it is difficult to check how safe online friends are. And it's easy to use even the smallest of personal information against someone.
Sometimes knowing only your mother's maiden name can be the key to your goods. In other cases, someone can impersonate your mobile operator's customer service representative based on your birthday and the last four digits of your social security number. It couldn't even take that much. People voluntarily share on Twitter and Facebook all the time.
If you play video games online or stream yourself, here is a handy list of topics you should avoid to protect yourself from possible harm:
- Your complete name
- The full names of the people closest to you
- Your exact birthday
- Your address or a picture of your home
- Your phone number
- Your social security number
- All bank details
- Where embarrassing photos of you live
- Physical places you visit often (i.e. schools, restaurants, shops)
Any combination of this information can indicate exactly who you are, where you live and how to find yourself. You have to rely on your own judgment if you want to trust strangers. Suffice it to say that there is no reason to share any of the above information with anyone you play with. (Bonus: you can get a game-specific VPN or private network that masks your position to really protect yourself from being tracked.)
Don't do anything stupid
Once in 2008, I tried to pirate a copy of Spore and instead got a virus that blocked my computer. Did I deserve to have my $ 600 laptop destroyed? Probably not. But had I let it come? Certainly.
The sad, solemn truth is that it is impossible to explain everything. It's really. Good hacks happen to good, watchful people. With these tips, however, you can control the chaos on the Internet a little better.