Important recommendations for keeping personal data safe when playing online video games

NOTE: The actual contents and opinions are the sole views of the author who maintains editorial independence.
Video games are one of the most complete entertainment media, since in addition
to offering a much more immersive experience than other media, they also allow players to be free to communicate with anyone else in the world and enjoy the same game together. This feature that revolutionized the video game industry started in the 90’s and since then it has evolved non-stop to reach the current result, where thousands of players can socialize and compete against each other in the same game.

Online video games have also generated a great change in the business models used by developers and in their relationship with players. This also started to gradually generate the need for players to provide their personal data in order to access online modalities or to obtain payment benefits, which is already a standard nowadays.

Player data is usually protected by various security systems provided by the developer companies or by the companies in charge of offering the services (such as Sony, Microsoft, Valve, Epic Games, among many others). However, such security is not totally guaranteed (obviously there will always be risks when being connected to the Internet), so we should never ignore the possibilities that our personal data (including bank details) may be at risk from any external attack such as Hackers, viruses in the operating system, or even scams that can be perpetrated by contacting players directly.

That said, here are some important tips to keep your personal data safe when playing online games, especially on PCs and Smartphones.

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Read the terms and conditions

A brief but important recommendation is to review the terms and conditions provided by video games in order to be aware of the purpose for which our personal data will be used. Although it sounds tedious, it is advisable to take the time to read this section, or at least the parts related to player information.

Beware of suspicious emails to avoid Phishing

You have to be very careful with Phishing scammers, who usually operate by creating a fake account pretending to be the developer of the game and then proceed to send emails directly to the players who are asked to place the corresponding data of their accounts and then enter them and steal their virtual goods.

That said, to avoid phishing, the first thing to be clear about is that no developer or vendor will directly ask players to share their login passwords in an email and in case of payment transactions, all these must be done on the official website of the videogame. Nor should you open links or install software that come from a suspicious email. If you want to download software related to a specific game, the most sensible thing to do is to download it from the official website of that game. Although these recommendations may seem obvious, they are worth mentioning, as phishing is still a danger today.

Always be aware of downloading updates and patches of the games

Video games usually release updates with patches from time to time, which can improve or correct various features of the game, such as technical errors, bugs, glitches, security vulnerabilities, among others.

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It is very important to download the most updated patches possible, otherwise it is possible that the device we use to play is vulnerable to software attacks, since cybercriminals can take advantage of the bugs that the game or program may have.

Even in the OS of video game consoles there can be attacks, as for example, the case of Sony PlayStation, where a few years ago there was a failure in the security of PlayStation Network that ended up producing a massive theft of passwords and banking data of the players. That said, this preventive measure, which is one of the simplest and most effective of all, should never be ignored.

Use a secure Gaming Marketplace

In case of requiring any service related to the purchase of any virtual good such as Currencies of any online video game (for example, wanting to buy WoW Classic Gold or FFXIV Gil), it is very important for the safety of the players to choose reliable websites that offer great security in transactions such as, a gaming marketplace where it is possible to trade virtual Currencies and virtual goods in a fast, comfortable and safe way, both for buyers and sellers.

Use secure and different passwords for each account

When playing online it is highly recommended to use strong passwords in each account or website used to play (besides using different nicknames), since this way it will be more difficult for hackers to decipher our passwords and in case they manage to do so, they will not be able to use that same information to access other accounts. It should also be mentioned that it is never appropriate to include the real name or date of birth in nicknames or passwords.

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Check the activity history of the accounts

One way to find out if an unwanted person has logged into your game account is to check the recent activity (also called My Activity), which can be reviewed in the interface of some services. For example, Nintendo offers an access history that contains data such as the date, time and location of the connections that have been made with that account. In case of finding any suspicious activity that we have not performed, you can report such activity or you can also exercise simple measures such as changing the current password for a stronger one.

Be careful with the accessories and functions of the consoles

Over time, video game consoles have begun to have various accessories that players can buy to change their experience in games. These accessories can be of all kinds, for example, Xbox has the Kinect, which has cameras that can detect and record body movement, to perform actions in certain games. We could also mention apps for mobile devices that link to some games.

Keeping these accessories constantly activated may put the security and privacy of players at risk, due to the fact that it is unknown whether at some point the images or information that these accessories may collect could end up in the hands of the video game developer or in the worst case scenario, in the hands of other users.

Care should also be taken with handheld consoles such as the Switch and smartphones, as these can use geolocation data, either in apps or in some virtual reality games. This data could be obtained by hackers in the worst case scenario. Although it must be said that it is quite unusual for these accessories to represent a real danger.

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Avoid using a web browser while playing a game

In case of playing on PC, it is best to avoid entering other websites while playing, especially if personal data has been placed on those pages (unless you really need to use it, such as when streaming). This is because it is possible that hackers can access the personal data entered in the video game through some vulnerability in the website that is running simultaneously. You should also avoid as much as possible using public Wi-Fi networks for gaming, as these are the most dangerous, or at least you should use a VPN when browsing or playing on these.

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That said, it is hoped that these recommendations will be of help to those gamers who wish to keep their data safe at all times while continuing to enjoy the great online gaming experience.

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