PC gamers are getting bombarded by cyberthreats

representational image of a cloud firewall
(Image credit: Pixabay)

PC gamers are being targeted by more cyberattacks than ever before after the gaming sector saw huge growth during the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, a new report has claimed.

Top antivirus maker Kaspersky says it blocked in excess of 5.8 million attacks over the year running up to the end of Q2 2021 (June), consisting of both malware and other ‘unwanted programs’ pretending to be popular PC games.

The company has warned about this before, and this time observed: “PC game-related cyberthreats soared with the introduction of lockdowns in Q2 2020.”

Minecraft threats

The majority of the threats consisted of downloaders disguised as installers for games, which when activated, fetch and install malware on the host PC, or peddle adware on the system. 

Predictably, some of the malware in the mix was very malicious stuff, including backdoors that would allow hackers access to a victim's system, or Trojans that steal precious data and hoover up sensitive financial information such as online banking logins or credit card details.

Mobile gamers were also in the firing line when it comes to malware deception, with Kaspersky noting it compiled stats using attacks disguised as the top 10 mobile titles, as well as the top 24 PC games.

The biggest offender on both PC and mobile fronts? Minecraft. It’s a great target due to the multiple versions and huge number of mods for the game, Kaspersky noted, giving lots of opportunity to package up something nasty. In the year covered, some 3,010,891 attempted infections (blocked by Kaspersky) were down to Minecraft alone.

The next most popular games with would-be malware peddlers were The Sims 4 (which had 1,266,804 detections), PUBG (484,528), Fortnite (267,598) and Grand Theft Auto V (187,114). Interestingly, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which was previously marked out as a big target for malware by Kaspersky in the last report we covered, didn’t make the top five this time.

Analysis: Stay safe out there…

Minecraft players should definitely be wary, then, given that a huge number of these disguised malware bombs were aimed at them – more than half of the total amount, in fact, with The Sims 4 being a long way behind that.

Whatever PC or mobile game you play, though, be very careful around unofficial mods in particular, as this is a major path of exploitation with Minecraft (and any games with a big modding scene). When purchasing or downloading a game, it is of course best to stick to official stores, as away from these, risks increase massively – and it’s no surprise to hear Kaspersky tell us that many infections come from game installers grabbed via warez sites.

Many of these infections also come from phishing attacks, so as ever, be very careful and exercise plenty of common sense around links you might see pop up in your browser, on social media, or in emails or other messages. Always remember: if an offer for a game sounds too good to be true, it’s almost certainly a scam.

It doesn’t hurt to run one of the best antivirus apps, of course, because if the unthinkable happens and you do fall foul of a nasty download, then a quality antivirus will hopefully detect the malicious content and prevent it from doing whatever nefarious task it was created to perform.

Via PC Gamer

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).