Online Video Games: Are They Safe?

Posted on Jan 24 2014 - 10:50am by Shannon McCarty-Caplan


The Internet and online gaming communities have turned the once solitary activity of video gaming into a social activity. Through the interactive power of online games, gamers of all ages can reach across geographical boundaries and interact with people who share similar interests.

Unfortunately, there is a much darker side to online gaming. And even though most ‘gamers’ are attracted to its social and competitive side, there are others who view it as an opportunity to cause trouble, while profiting off of the misfortunes of others.

Recognizing the Risks of Online Gaming

Of course, this does not mean that you have to ban online gaming all together.  Instead, by learning how to recognize the risks, you can ensure that this opportunity for social engagement and entertainment remains fun and safe.

Your Private Information Could be Vulnerable: A number of online gaming sites and communities require players to giveaway a certain amount of private information (e.g. credit card info, names, addresses, birthdates, etc.). In fact, some games marketed as “free” require players to enter things such asemail addresses, phone number and passwords. Unfortunately, even the most secure and well-known sites have been hacked, putting entire community’s user data at risk.

Add-ons and Downloads Could be Unsafe: Some online games require players to download software directly onto their computers, ultimately exposing them to viruses, worms and other malicious programs. Remember, even if no downloads are required, malicious programs can still attack your computer through online chats, email and instant messaging.

Friends Online are Not Always Who They Seem: Many hackers and scammers will hide behind a false identity, with the express purpose of trying to capture your personal information, steal financial information or inappropriately contact you.

How Do You Keep Safe While Gaming?

Despite the risks mentioned earlier, online gaming can be a safe and fun way to interact and meet new people. You just need to make sure you take the right precautions: 

  • Invest in a security solution with both antivirus and anti-spyware for protection against viruses, spyware, worms and other malicious threats.
  • Use antivirus software that blocks malicious links while surfing online and in emails and IMs.
  • Understand the risks associated with sharing private information with gaming vendors and strangers.
  • Read the privacy policy of any game. These policies will offer insight into what personal data is being captured and how it is being used.
  • Always set privacy filters at their highest settings.

Turn on your firewall and be leery of gaming sites that require access through your firewalls.

About the Author

Shannon McCarty-Caplan, Consumer Security Advocate at Trend Micro. Shannon has over a dozen years of experience helping consumers and businesses find the security solutions they need to protect their families, privacy and critical data. Shannon is a news junkie with a BA in Journalism from the University of Arizona. On most days, you can find Shannon tweeting or blogging about security issues impacting women and families or geeking out on the latest new tech toys. Shannon resides on the North Coast (Chicago) and spends her free time volunteering for two non-profit organizations, studying foreign languages and traveling with her husband.