In January of 2019, hackers attacked Town of Salem, a popular browser game streamed regularly by professional gamers on the Twitch platform, according to TechCrunch.com writer Zack Whittaker’s “After Account Hacks, Twitch Streamers Take Security Into Their Own Hands.”
The hack exposed 7.8 million passwords via credential snuffing, a method where “hackers take lists of usernames and passwords from other breached sites and brute-force their way into other accounts,” the article notes.
Non-gamers might say, “No problem, just start the game over.” But game streamers put a lot of work into building their game characters and some can even pull in upward of $20,000 per month through streaming views, sponsorships and brand deals, according to James Hale’s Tubefilter.com article, “Here’s a Candid Breakdown of Exactly How Much Money Twitch Streamers Earn Per Month.”
Video game cyber security is quickly becoming a major concern as more professional gamers succeed by painstakingly building up game accounts and streaming their game play over the internet. An online cyber security master’s degree can enable professionals to indulge their interest in games and cyber security at the same time.
Cyber Security Issues Facing the Video Game Industry
Cyber security issues generally involve malicious individuals discovering security flaws and exploit codes that allow them to gain access to computers, computer (game) servers and websites.
“Once [hackers are] in, they can do all sorts of nefarious things in the gaming space, like…gaining a competitive advantage in a game, but all the way up to causing a disruption in competition or breach systems to in fact scrape data and other info to find ways to make or launder money,” explains cyber security podcaster Nick Brown in “Raiding Your Vault: Cybersecurity in Gaming [PODCAST]” in the National Law Review.
In many ways, the threats facing video games are more complex than the those facing other businesses. Threats like the exposure of credit card data and bank account details still exist, but video games also introduce other elements that attract cyber thieves. Avast.com writer Kevin Townsend lists the many hackable components of video games in “Gamers and Gaming Security”:
- Virtual valuables: Over the years, in-game economies have evolved into fully functioning, cryptocurrency-like economic systems. Gamers spend in-game currency freely, and some even sell in-game currency and hard-to-find in-game items in the real world.
- Data theft: Both online and mobile games collect data on players, and in the case of mobile- and social network-based games, this data can be extensive, including current location, phone calls and transaction information.
- Weak authentication: A lot of gamers reuse the same passwords to avoid having to keep track of many passwords. Lax authentication procedures give hackers an easier time accessing game accounts. In some cases, gamers control dozens of profiles under one account. So weak authentication can precipitate the exposure of all game accounts at once.
- Phishing: Hackers sometimes capture gamer credentials through the use of fake login pages and chat platforms, either in-game or with game administrators. Even if the hacker can’t gain full access to an account this way, they can still steal inventory items and other in-game valuables.
- Malware: Phishing often comes hand in hand with malware. A fake login page, for example, could also introduce a malware program running in the background that can wreak havoc not just with video games, but with entire computer systems. Some malware also comes in the form of “cheats” and “hacks” that promise special game privileges to gamers.
Safer Gameplay in the Future
Cyber security careers are blossoming as the world becomes more and more connected to the internet. The millennial kids whose parents asked them, “Do you think you’ll play video games as a job someday?” can now proudly answer, “Yes, I do.”
But the more profitable video game playing becomes for professional gamers, the more cyber security professionals will need to do to protect them against would-be thieves.
Video game security also needs to consider the various levels of players’ tech savvy.
“A significant number of gamers are young — elementary, middle, and high school-aged — who are less security-conscious and more trusting of people they meet online,” Michael Greene writes in “The Video Game Industry Is a Black Hole for Cybersecurity” on VentureBeat.com. “To them, privacy is a learned behavior leaving them open to exploitation.”
One of the biggest problems facing video game cyber security is the ease and speed of authentication methods, according to Greene. Gamers will stop playing a game if the authentication procedure becomes too much of a headache. For this reason, video game companies tend to use less-than-optimal login processes.
Future game security experts will need to make authentication fast and easy, but secure. In-game items, which carry real-world value, must be protected and preserved safely in players’ inventories and accounts. And streaming services such as Twitch must be reliable for those who use streaming game play as a source of income.
University of North Dakota’s Master of Science in Cyber Security Program
Choosing the right online cyber security master’s program is crucial. The best programs offer courses that keep current with today’s cyber security issues and concerns.
UND’s online cyber security master’s degree program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the Top 25 Most Innovative Schools (2018), alongside such prestigious institutions as Stanford, Harvard and MIT.
UND prepares students for careers in cyber security with concentrations in Autonomous Systems Cyber Security, Cyber Security and Behavior, Data Security, and General Cyber Security. For more information, visit the program’s website.
After Account Hacks, Twitch Streamers Take Security into Their Own Hands – TechCrunch.com
Here’s a Candid Breakdown of Exactly How Much Money Twitch Streamers Earn Per Month – TubeFilter.com
Raiding Your Vault: Cybersecurity in Gaming [PODCAST] – NatLawReview.com
Gamers and Gaming Security – Blog.avast.com
The Video Game Industry is a Black Hole for Cybersecurity – VentureBeat.com