As the gaming industry continues to become a more lucrative market, it has also increasingly become more attractive to cybercriminals.
These cyber attackers are employing the same tactics used to hack online banks and retailers.
The reader may recall late last year when Steam, one of the world’s largest online video game platforms, publicly admitted that 77,000 of its gamer accounts are hacked every month. It was the first time a major video game company acknowledged itself as a cybercrime target.
Kaspersky Lab researcher Santiago Pontiroli launched an investigation into how many gamers are being exploited by cybercriminals. Pontiroli and his team uncovered the existence of a new type of malware developed specifically to hack Steam accounts. The “Steam Stealer,” is able to bypass the Steam client’s built-in multifactor authentication (MFA) protocols, which enables hackers to gain the access necessary to compromise the integrity of a player’s account.
Cyber threats are significantly underreported, though the video game industry is, according to Dark Reading, “as big, if not bigger, than any industry in the world. Of the 1.2 billion video game players worldwide, nearly 700 million of them play online. For the video game industry, providing entertainment for one seventh of the world’s populace equates to revenues of more than $86.8 billion annually. This is nearly double the amount of the film industry, yet the Sony Pictures hack was covered for months. For financially motivated hackers, and fraudsters, there is perhaps no bigger opportunity to profit than the video game industry provides.”
Online video games are indeed vulnerable to attacks. Unfortunately, the video game industry is still largely in denial over the fact that it is a systemic problem. Dark Reading reports:
“In-video game attacks occur when a player’s account is hijacked using readily available malware that enables man-in-the-middle exploits, keylogging, remote access, and other hacks. Once inside, cyber criminals can steal player credentials, gain access to a player’s game account, transfer in-game assets to other accounts, and sell those assets on the ‘grey market,’ an unauthorized, but not necessarily illegal place that is used to sell virtual items and currency for real money.”
Additionally, the emergence of a ‘grey market’ is perhaps the most significant unintended consequence of video games moving online. The demand for virtual items is massive and many people strive to gain virtual items through regular game play and then sell them for real money. Known as ‘gold farming,’ it is so rampant and profitable that in a World Bank report it is estimated that it generates $3 billion a year for people in developing countries.
Now, because the demand for virtual items is so high, gold farmers have automated their operations and are able to run hundreds or thousands of bots to speed up the accumulation process. This has flooded the online gaming economies and has caused publishers to lose as much as 40 percent of in-game revenue per month, not to mention the reputational damage done to the businesses.
Video games are attractive targets for hackers longing for better scores, more money and notoriety. But, hackers are also fixated on game services.
Companies in the Gaming industry may not appear to be a prime target for cybercriminals, but consider the fact that one of the biggest hacks of all time, of Sony’s PlayStation Network in 2011, resulted in 77 million account holder details being compromised. Twelve thousand credit card details were also leaked, and the company’s stock price crashed overnight.
Currently, the following are the most common ways attackers are targeting the businesses in the gaming industry and their users:
Currently, online video game cybersecurity is focused on protecting and monitoring the login and monetary transaction processes. Unfortunately, that’s the same plan used by banks–and anyone who has been watching the news knows how ineffective that strategy has been. It has cost the banking industry billions of dollars over time. Online gaming also depends on MFA to protect the login process, but this safeguard is no match for the widely available keylogging and screen-scrape technology. Then too, device reputation technology is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle hacks. And, rules-based security is deeply flawed.
So, it is expected that large-scale attacks will continue to occur until the video game industry wakes up and begins tightening up on cybersecurity. Cyber criminals aren’t going to stop until they’re stopped.
Written by: Sneacker
Author Bio: Sneacker is a writer who works in the information technology field. She is a member of GhostSec, a counterterrorism unit within the Anonymous collective, and participant in #OpISIS.
(Security Affairs – gaming industry, cybercrime)