Esports tournaments facing huge cyberattack threats

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Security experts have warned that the global esports industry is facing a growing threat from hackers as its popularity booms around the world.

New research from Trend Micro has warned that as the sport becomes more lucrative, cybercriminals are attempting to target both professional and amateur players as well as affect the games themselves.

Esports has grown rapidly over the past few years to become a billion-dollar industry, with tournaments attracting thousands of fans to sold-out arenas across the globe.

Gaming threats

Criminals have targeted esports for many years, but as the popularity increases, so have the number of attacks, Trend Micro found.

The firm found that the servers used by companies to host valuable gaming assets are a prime target for exploitation by hackers. Trend Micro found that as of July 25, 2019 there were 219,981 exposed gaming assets easily discoverable via a Shodan search.

The players themselves are also at risk, with criminals launching ransomware attacks to lock out top gamers from their accounts unless a ransom is paid (including some players shelling out up to $1000 in Bitcoin) and phishing malware deployed to steal account details along with financial record.

Trend Micro also warned that tournaments can be targeted with DDoS attacks, or servers targeted for maximum disruption to slow down gameplay and affect the reputation of certain companies or organisations.

All of this can also be tied in to the increasing popularity of illegal gambling on esports, with hackers able to affect the outcomes of tournaments to win big for criminal enterprises.

“If there’s one thing we know about malicious actors, it’s that they follow the money. Trend Micro has already observed nation state groups taking advantage of security gaps to target the gaming industry for financial gain, and we expect the same in esports,” said Jon Clay, director of global threat communications for Trend Micro. 

“As esports becomes a billion-dollar industry, it’s inevitable that attackers will look to capitalise over the coming years. We predict the sector will experience the same kind of attacks as the gaming industry, but on a much larger scale, with financially motivated actors getting involved for monetary and geopolitical reasons.”

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.