Gaming has surged massively in popularity these last few decades, with millions worldwide glued to their devices playing their favorite games. Initially considered a “geeky” pastime, gaming is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and one of the key reasons has been the the increase in the processing power of smartphones and other devices. Instead of buying an expensive console, users can just use their existing smartphones to play the latest mobile game which is almost as good as a console experience. Mobile gaming also appeals to the casual player and has a vast audience willing to pay for the experience.
Unfortunately, this also means that there is a massive opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage of this user base and attempt to exploit it. In this article, we go over how mobile gaming has become a popular target for cybercriminals and some of the common scams to be aware of.
What are Mobile Gaming Scams
Mobile Games are typically bought from App Stores and installed either for a small fee or free of charge. Players are also incentivized to make in-game purchases to get extra stuff that makes the gaming experience more enjoyable. Mobile Gaming scams attempt to take advantage of this gaming eco-system via the following:
- Fake Apps: In this scam, cybercriminals create fake mobile gaming apps that might look similar to a legitimate and popular existing game. Players are unable to tell the difference and end up downloading the same. These fake apps are malicious and are used to compromise the player’s device.
- Account Takeovers: Players typically create accounts on gaming websites to make in-game purchases, and attackers often target these accounts via phishing attacks. If successful in compromising an account, cybercriminals can use the credentials to make in-game purchases or sell the account on the dark web. The attacks are not just email-based; attackers can also pretend to be fellow players and interact with the victim through the in-game chat to try and socially engineer them.
- Fake or Fraudulent In-App Purchases: In this scam, attackers try to trick users into paying for fraudulent or fake services that do not exist by posing as a legitimate storefront. They might even trick users into paying for services by manipulating how the mobile game takes payments.
- Cheating and Mod Scams: Players are often keen to use chats or mods to gain an unfair advantage within the game. Attackers provide these cheat codes or mods, which are malware, to compromise their devices.
The impact of these scams can be severe for the player and the gaming industry. Mobile game users might lose trust in a particular gaming brand that was fraudulently used after suffering financial loss due to a scam. Similarly, companies will lose customer share and revenue due to being associated with scams on their gaming app. This can have a ripple effect and slow down progress and innovation in an industry that thrives on it. Gaming companies are typically small size companies with a few dedicated employees that are often not aware of how to deal with these cybersecurity issues as they occur.
How to Protect Yourself From Mobile Gaming Scams
Mobile Gaming is a relatively new digital landscape to secure, and it is essential to understand what security measures can be put in place to stop such scams. One of the first steps is for players to become aware of these scams so they do not become victims. Other key measures are:
- Always verify that a gaming app is valid before installing it. Read reviews and the developer’s website, as that can often contain clues such as spelling errors that give away its origin
- Be suspicious of apps that require excessive permissions on your device when installing it.
- Make sure your device is installed with an anti-malware solution that can detect such malicious software.
- Exercise caution when making in-app purchases. Be suspicious of deals that are too good to be accurate and do not originate from the official gaming websites.
- Be wary of in-game chats or emails from the gaming company that asks you for your credentials or payment information.
- Use temporary payment cards for in-game purchases to minimize damage in case of a compromise.
In case of a compromise, be sure to contact your financial institution to report any financial losses. App stores such as Google Play and Apple also provide instructions on reporting a malicious app that can be removed before other users are harmed.
Gaming companies also have a role in deterring such scams, as it is not just the player’s responsibility. It is essential to implement robust security controls that prevent attackers from compromising the gaming ecosystem, such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, verified reviews, etc. Monitoring unusual logins or bot-like activity that may indicate an ongoing scam is also recommended. They can also educate the players about such scams via in-game notifications and awareness messages so they are aware of how attackers operate within the gaming community.
Mobile Gaming will continue to grow in popularity due to its mass appeal and be a target for scammers and cybercriminals worldwide. Securing the mobile gaming ecosystem is a shared responsibility between the players and the game developers who must work together to ensure that mobile gaming remains a secure and enjoyable experience for all.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are mobile gaming scams?
Mobile gaming scams are fraudulent activities targeting mobile game players. These scams include fake apps, account takeovers, fraudulent in-app purchases, and cheating scams.
How can I protect myself from mobile gaming scams?
To protect yourself from mobile gaming scams, follow these measures: verify the legitimacy of gaming apps, be cautious of excessive permissions requested during installation, use an anti-malware solution, exercise caution when making in-app purchases, be wary of suspicious in-game chats or emails asking for credentials or payment information, consider using temporary payment cards, and report any financial losses to your financial institution or app store.
What role do gaming companies play in preventing scams?
Gaming companies are responsible for implementing robust security controls such as multifactor authentication, encryption, and verified reviews. They should monitor for unusual logins or bot-like activity, educate players about scams through in-game notifications, and raise awareness within the gaming community.
Why is securing the mobile gaming ecosystem important?
Securing the mobile gaming ecosystem is crucial to protect players from financial losses and maintain trust in gaming brands. It also ensures the progress and innovation of the gaming industry by preventing scams that can harm both players and gaming companies. Cooperation between players and game developers is necessary to maintain a secure and enjoyable mobile gaming experience.