Cyber attackers exploited the increased popularity of video games during the pandemic to launch various attacks.
Kaspersky Lab reports that in April, the daily number of blocked attempts to direct users to dangerous sites that exploit video games increased by 54% compared to January 2020. Other popular video games used as bait were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and The Witcher 3.
In addition, in April, the number of blocked attempts to direct users to phishing pages for one of the most popular video game platforms increased by 40% compared to February 2020.
This spring, millions of people around the world were forced to stay at home, as most countries adopted various measures of self-isolation and restriction of movement. Being at home and having more free time than ever before, many people have turned to the forms of online entertainment available, including video games.
Since March, the total number of Steam users (the most popular online video game platform, community and store) has increased significantly, with the platform reaching a new record for active users and competitors at the end of March.
Noting this trend, Kaspersky researchers decided to take a deeper look at the landscape of video game threats during the period of self-isolation. What they found – not surprisingly – was that cyber attackers exploited the increased interest in video games to launch various attacks.
According to Kaspersky Security Network data, there was a significant increase in the daily number of attempts to direct users to dangerous sites exploiting the theme of video games: they were 54% more numerous in April compared to January.
Users have often been lured with attractive promises, such as free versions of popular games, updates and extensions, or ways to cheat. But if users clicked on these links, they risked downloading dangerous programs, from malicious malware that steals passwords, to ransomware and miners, software that secretly mines cryptocurrencies on the victim’s PC.
The game most often used by criminals was Minecraft, one of the most popular video games ever created. Its name has been used in over 130,000 web attacks. Other popular video games used as bait were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and The Witcher 3.
Moreover, according to statistics from Kaspersky’s anti-phishing system, compared to February, the number of redirects blocked to phishing pages containing the word “Steam” increased by 40% in April.
“Many of these video game-related attacks are not exactly sophisticated; very important for their success is the human factor. Recent months have shown that users can easily fall prey to phishing attacks or click on dangerous links when it comes to video games – either because they are trying to find pirated versions or because they are looking for different shortcuts to help them win,” says Maria Namestnikova, a security expert at Kaspersky.
To play safely, Kaspersky experts recommend:
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA) when possible to protect your gaming accounts.
- Pay attention to any pirated copies of video games, as they are some of the favourite baits used by attackers
- Use a reliable security solution, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud, that identifies unlicensed downloaded programs, blocks phishing sites, and prevents redirects to harmful pages
- During the game, do not turn off your security solution, but turn on the game mode, which consumes fewer resources