Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity and digital privacy company discovered over 5.8 million malware and other malicious software disguised as popular PC games over the past year.
The researchers of Kaspersky collected the data after assessing the security-related threats in the gaming industry during the pandemic. This includes potential hacking attacks on PC and smartphones and phishing schemes.
The company speculates that the ballooning volumes of security threats can be connected to the increase in gaming activities during the pandemic when people were forced to look for other means of entertainment while being confined within their homes.
The gaming industry saw massive growth over the last 18 months, in part, all credit goes to the pandemic which trapped millions of users in their homes. However, even after widespread vaccination drives, the demand for games continues. As a result, the industry is expected to grow further, hitting a peak of 175.5 billion USD by the end of 2021.
Kaspersky found several malicious and malware software masquerades as the 24 most popular PC games and 10 famous mobile titles. This discovery revealed that PC game-related security threats escalated with the implementation of lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the second quarter of 2020, hitting 2.24 million detections globally. This figure accounts for an increase of 66% compared to 1.48 million attacks found in the previous quarter.
Strangely, the number of affected PC users and cyberattacks decreased in the second quarter of 2021, recording only 636,904 attacks.
As far as mobile gaming is concerned, the situation was slightly different. An increase of 185% is recorded among the users affected by the pandemic, growing from 1,138 users in February to 3,253 users in March 2020. Moreover, the number of smartphone gamers did not drop dramatically after the two waves of the pandemic, averaging at only a 10% decrease in the number of users attacked per month in the second quarter of last year compared to the second quarter of this year.
This shows how mobile threats stayed compelling for cybercriminals, even after lockdowns were lifted across the globe.
Speaking of popular games, Minecraft emerged on top for both mobile and PC categories, as the platform was commonly used by attackers to hide malicious and infected software. Such an overwhelming number of attacks on Minecraft may be because of its widespread popularity, multiple versions, and a myriad of medications available for users to enhance the gaming experience.
Usually, these modifications are designed and created by users, providing a simple disguise for malicious and other infected software. About 36,336 malicious files were found on Minecraft from July 2020 to June 2021, resulting in about 184,887 affected PC users and 3,010,891 attempted infections. These figures account for nearly half of the malware attacks found during this period.
Here’s is the list of the top five PC games commonly used as a disguise for the distribution of malware and malicious software globally:
While commenting on these attacks, Anton Ivanov, a security researcher at Kaspersky, said, “Two popular ways of threatening distribution are phishing sites – there have been targeted users of different gaming platforms, many of which are very difficult to distinguish from real sites for regular users.
According to Anton, Warez sites are another attacking vector that offers pirated software over the internet. “We have tracked a well-coordinated campaign that distributed a dangerous dropper via warez, which affected users in 45 countries.”
Considering the development of currencies and goodies within the games, the industry becomes even more lucrative and attractive to hackers. “Perhaps the worst risk associated with gaming-related threats is the loss of account information – be it login details to a gaming or, worse, banking or cryptocurrency programs.”
Sticking to official websites for downloads, using privacy-protected software (Best VPNs for windows), and being vigilant while indulging in gaming-related content is crucial for a secure experience, he concludes.