The gaming industry has seen a massive shift in its perception in recent years. No longer considered a “geeky” pastime, it is now a multi-billion dollar industry with big gaming releases rivaling the launches of Hollywood blockbusters! Technology has grown by leaps and bounds, enabling gaming to be enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures. Unfortunately, another trend that has been on the increase is data breaches on gaming sites. In this article, we go over why this trend is on the rise and the key steps that can be taken to protect against the same.
Why Data Breaches are Increasing in the Gaming Industry
Cybercrime has become a menace to nearly every industry with an online presence, and gaming is no different. Attacks are getting increasingly sophisticated with each passing day making it more difficult for companies to defend against such tactics. It is not a matter of “if” you will be targeted but “when,” as the gaming industry is rapidly finding out.
There are several reasons why cyber-criminals have put the gaming industry in their cross-hairs.
Let us look at a few of the key ones below:
- The growing popularity of online gaming: The rapid growth of online gaming in the decade has resulted in a massive user base who are constantly online and connected to gaming services. These services are usually subscription-based, meaning that the gaming service stores user details such as email addresses, passwords, and even payment data. This can be a treasure trove for cybercriminals making gaming an attractive target. This data can be misused for identity theft or sold on the dark web for profit.
- Lack of awareness within the gaming community: The gaming community is generally less mature about cyberattacks than online banking and payment site users. Due to their lack of awareness, targeted phishing scams promising gamers of lucrative offers and “cheats” can result in a high success rate. Poor awareness also leads to users choosing weak passwords for their gaming accounts, which cybercriminals can easily guess and take over.
- Poor cybersecurity posture of gaming companies: Cybersecurity has traditionally not been a priority for the gaming industry resulting in high-profile breaches, as we will see in the next section. These companies also have supply chain dependencies, such as cloud providers, payment processors, software libraries, etc., that attackers can subvert and use as an entry point into their environments. The gaming industry has been improving its security posture but is far behind other sectors.
- High connectivity: Online gaming, by its very nature, requires constant connectivity, and large games can have thousands of users connected at any given time. This dramatically increases the attack surface for cybercriminals to find vulnerabilities and a more extensive user base to target
Key security breaches in the Gaming Industry
A gaming company or provider suffering a data breach can have long-lasting consequences with a loss of trust and the financial loss of the breach itself. Being associated with a cyber attack can directly result in loss of sales and revenue as gamers will no longer be willing to hand over their payment data or personal information to the company.
Some of the key cyberattacks targeting the gaming sector in recent years are listed below:
- Sony PlayStation Network (2011): Easily one of the most devastating against the gaming industry. In 2011, Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) suffered a massive data breach that affected over 77 million users, exposing their personal information and payment data. Sony was forced to shut down their service to recover from the incident resulting in millions in lost revenue.
- Capcom (2020): The famous Japanese gaming company, Capcom suffered a ransomware attack in 2020, which resulted in the personal information of over 350,000 customers and employees being leaked, such as names, addresses, email addresses, etc.
- Electronic Arts (2021): Electronic Arts (EA) was the victim of a data breach that resulted in the source code of some of their most popular games, like FIFA21, being stolen. In addition to the game source code, details about their internal Frostbite game engine were also leaked. Despite no user information being stolen, this attack still heavily damaged the company’s reputation in the industry.
- Activision (2022): One of the more recent attacks involved Activision. Cybercriminals compromised and stole internal information, such as the launch release schedule for its popular gaming franchise, Call of Duty. They also stole the personal information of Activision employees, such as their names, emails, phone numbers, salaries, addresses, etc. The attackers were able to compromise the environment after carrying out a successful phishing attack against a privileged user within Activision.
Preventing Data Breaches in the Gaming Sector
It is important to note there is no magic “silver bullet” to solve this growing problem of data breaches within the gaming sector. Gaming companies must take a long, hard look at their infrastructure and implement cybersecurity frameworks based on the principle of defense in depth. Controls such as multi-factor authentication, vulnerability scanning, user awareness, etc., are just a few that will go a long way in mitigating these risks. In addition, they must invest in independent third-party assessments and audits that can approach their network from an attacker’s viewpoint and help them identify weak points.
As gaming becomes more and more popular and profitable, data breaches will only continue to increase. The gaming industry has a long way to go when it comes to becoming a mature cybersecurity industry, but it is essential to start this journey. By implementing cybersecurity frameworks and investing in user awareness, the gaming sector can ensure that users enjoy this pastime without the threat of their information being stolen or targeted by cyber attackers.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are data breaches in the gaming industry?
Data breaches in the gaming industry occur when unauthorized individuals gain access to sensitive user data, including personal information and payment details, stored by gaming companies and gaming sites.
What are some notable data breaches in the gaming industry?
Some notable data breaches in the gaming industry include Sony PlayStation Network in 2011, Electronic Arts in 2021, and Capcom in 2020. These incidents resulted in the exposure of personal information and, in some cases, the theft of valuable intellectual property.
Why are data breaches becoming more common in the gaming industry?
Data breaches are becoming more common due to rapid growth and digitalization, valuable user data, sophisticated cybercriminals, insufficient security measures, human factors, supply chain vulnerabilities, and increased interconnectivity.
What are the consequences of data breaches in the gaming industry?
Data breaches can have severe consequences for both gaming companies and their users. For companies, breaches can lead to financial losses, reputational damage, and decreased customer trust. For gamers, the exposure of personal data can result in identity theft, financial loss, and targeted phishing attacks.
How can gaming companies prevent data breaches?
Gaming companies can prevent data breaches by investing in robust cybersecurity measures, including multi-factor authentication, regular security audits, employee training, and collaboration with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement. Users should also take precautions to protect their personal information by creating strong, unique passwords and staying vigilant against phishing attempts.
What should users do if they are affected by a data breach?
If a user’s data has been compromised in a gaming data breach, they should immediately change their passwords, monitor their financial accounts for suspicious activity, and be cautious of potential phishing attempts. Users can also consider signing up for identity theft protection services and reporting the breach to relevant authorities.