If you or someone in your family is a gamer, then you would be familiar with hacks. Hacks and cheats are designed to give a gamer help with a game by allowing them to download useable software for assistance. But security company, AVG says downloading hacks could open up a can of worms not only for the gamer, but for anyone else that uses the computer, because you have probably also just downloaded Malware. We look at how this occurs, what Malware does and what the risks are for your personal information and your credit file.
By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repair and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au
Antivirus vendor AVG has issued a warning to gamers following research which suggests that more than 90 per cent of ‘hacks’ available online contain some form of malware or malicious code.
Hacks and cheats are commonly incorporated into games; however, the sheer popularity of online multiplayer games has made gamers prime targets for cybercriminals.
“The research suggests more than 90 per cent of hacks, cracks, patches, cheats, key generators, trainers and other downloadable game tools contain malware or executable code.
These hacks are commonly delivered via unregulated torrents and file sharing sites, an easy vector for malware.
Malware inadvertently downloaded with hacks can give attackers easy access to your online gaming account as well as other sensitive information such as online banking details, personal data and passwords for other online services,” Stay Smart Online recently advised.
They advise gamers to only download patches from the game’s official site, and to avoid any unofficial software. They also recommend:
Always be suspicious of any files downloaded from torrents and file sharing websites.
Ensure you always have up-to-date security software installed on your computer.
Use unique account logon and password information for each of your online gaming accounts (and every other online service you use).
What is ‘malware’?
Malware— is short for ‘malicious software’. It is a type of malicious code or program that is used for monitoring and collecting your personal information (spyware) or disrupting or damaging your computer (viruses and worms). Stay Smart Online explains in more detail:
The term spyware is typically used to refer to programs that collect various types of personal information or that interfere with control of your computer in other ways, such as installing additional software or redirecting web browser activity.
Examples of spyware include:
A keylogger is a program that logs every keystroke you make and then sends that information, including things like passwords, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers, to whomever is spying on you.
A Trojan may damage your system and it may also install a ‘backdoor’ through which to send your personal information to another computer.
Viruses and worms
Viruses and worms typically self-replicate and can hijack your system. These types of malware can then be used to send out spam or perform other malicious activities and you may not even know it. Both can use up essential system resources, which may lead to your computer freezing or crashing. Viruses and worms often use shared files and email address books to spread to other computers.
If fraudsters can get their hands on your personal information they can steal passwords to not only the gaming site, but also to the bank or credit accounts of anyone who uses that computer.
They can also create a patchwork quilt of information that can allow them to eventually have enough on you to request duplicate identity documents (identity theft), and apply for credit in your name (identity fraud).
Running up credit all over town, perhaps buying and selling goods in your name, or in some cases mortgaging properties –you may have a stack of credit defaults against your name by the end of their ordeal – and sometimes no proof it wasn’t you that didn’t initiate the credit in the first place.
Recovery can be slow, and in some cases you may have no way to prove you weren’t responsible for the debt – with fraudsters leaving no trail and the actual identity theft happening long before the fraud took place.
Who might be most at risk?
Gamers often aren’t worried about risks to their personal information as they are often young people who consider they don’t have much to lose, when in fact they do. Firstly, if Malware is downloaded – it puts the entire family at risk. But secondly, a young person is just as vulnerable as anyone to exploitation. There have been reports of crooks harvesting the personal information of young people and storing it until the victim turn 18. Australian Police have issued warnings on the issue of data warehousing in relation to Facebook in the past, but fraudsters won’t be fussy about where they get it from. It all has a lucrative price on the ‘black market’ of personal information.
For more help with teaching kids and young people about online risks, go to the Stay Smart Online website http://www.staysmartonline.gov.au/kids_and_teens.
Visit our main website www.mycra.com.au for more information on identity theft and your credit file.
Image 1: Arvind Balaraman/ www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image 2: Salvatore Vuono/ www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net