Are the Kiwis winning or losing when it comes to game security?

It’s safe to say that the gaming landscape has changed significantly over the years. Gone are the days of the first generation ATARI consoles and Nintendo Gameboys, which had no internet connection or access. Whether online via a Sony or Microsoft console or a PC, the internet is now driving the future of gaming.

What started as a simple waste of time has now grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, encompassing sport, competition and celebrity. Online games have created endless opportunities for creators and interested parties to share their gaming experiences with the world, and new communities are popping up every day.

Many of these communities are based right here in Aotearoa, and according to the IGEA NZ 2022 report, COVID-19 has dramatically increased gaming statistics. 3.7 million Kiwis (73%) are said to play video games in general, and a out of three would be actively involved in gameplay publishing and online communication.

Communities such as esports, live streaming/twitch and game development are also on the rise in New Zealand, with 86% of respondents believing the gaming industry is important to our economy and 72% saying the government should encourage the gambling industry.

So as a country, it’s clear that we love the game and we’re getting into the game at a rapid pace. But as with any online activity, there are significant risks that come with this kind of growing engagement. The gaming space is a breeding ground for cybersecurity threats and scams, with threat actors exploiting both the technical and psychological side of the gaming experience.

Kiwi gamers have been hit hard financially in the past, with Norton research revealing that two in five gamers in New Zealand suffered a cyberattack in 2021. The average amount of money lost in such attacks is over $700, which is worrying. given that a large majority of players are still under the age of 18. In comparison, US players lost an average of only $104, signaling a significant problem in Aotearoa.

67% of respondents have experienced some financial impact, and have already reported in a recent Techday articleNortonLifeLock Senior APAC Director Mark Gorrie called for better game security.

“New Zealand is a small, wealthy nation, which makes it a prime target for cybercriminals. The financial losses of gamers should serve as a reminder for gamers to start improving their digital hygiene,” he said. he declares.

Online gamer Gamer BigCheeseKIT also said in the article that the nationwide gaming security issue is widespread and various communities in the casual and professional gaming industries are at risk.

“I’ve learned that when playing online it’s so important to be aware of your online friends and the information you share when playing online. While this is especially true for professional gamers who have this public profile, it’s clear that this goes for any online gamer,” he remarked.

Doxing was a key threat uncovered in the survey, and nearly one in five (19%) said they had been doxed or had personal information stolen and shared it publicly online. Many Kiwi players have also been found to exploit loopholes and cheats to gain a competitive advantage, increasing the risk of being attacked and exploited.

“Unfortunately, cybercriminals are hyper-aware of the exploit market and use them to scam those looking for an advantage in the usual way,” Gorrie said.

“They use dubious links and hide malware in downloads that are advertised as rare items, in-game currency or exploits to provide a competitive advantage. Clicking on a malicious link can lead to your data being lost , passwords, accounts and financial details.”

While there are a host of threats in the New Zealand gaming community, there are also forces at work trying to protect gamers. With esports being one of the biggest gaming trends on the rise, we spoke to New Zealand Esports Federation CEO Jonathan Jansen who revealed what is being done to help keep the sport safe and what players can do to increase their personal safety. .

“Due to its rigid structure and nature, esports is a much safer way to engage in gaming than being left to your own devices on the World Wide Web,” he says.

Nothing is without risk though, he says.

“As for games in general, cybersecurity issues can include things like the source where you download your games from, signing up to websites/games using the same passwords, lack of ‘information about how your information is stored, encrypted or processed, game account sharing related to personal information, social engineering and phishing.’

Jansen says being informed and educated is key to operating and promoting safe gaming behavior, and the NZESF has strict security standards and practices in place to prevent a variety of cybersecurity issues.

“Education plays an important role in creating safer esports communities,” he says.

“The first line of defense is the New Zealand Esports Federation sanctioned event process. Esports organizations whose processes have been audited to high standards, including proper data management, police records and other best practices will use our mark as a sign of trust.”

On advice to casual and competitive players in New Zealand, Jansen thinks there are a few key things to keep in mind, mainly involving being aware and cautious of the opportunities that arise.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! It’s tempting for players to look for ways to gain advantages in games, and often you’ll find them, but they’re never what they are.” they seem to be.”

He recommends downloading only verified game content through official channels and doing everything possible to protect your private and personal data online. Checking URLs for misspellings, ensuring a secure lock icon is present, and ensuring data is encrypted are just a few of the ways to stay safe.

While there is currently no funding for esports security, Jansen says the NZESF devotes many resources to esports security.

“At this point, the NZESF is working to create the resources and processes that we can to make the esports space a safe place.”

netsafe also offers a variety of free resources on its website to advise Kiwi players on how to stay safe online. They recommend checking the security and privacy features of any device you play on and seeking help and assistance when you think your security has been breached.

Keep your feet on the ground also has some helpful New Zealand-specific advice for parents of young console and PC gamers to help them stay safe online, with links to official New Zealand-related safety sites for game channels. games.

As we strive to keep gamers safe, our New Zealand gaming community must always be “on top of their game” to stay ahead in these times of heightened cyber risk.

In the words of Mark Gorrie on the state of New Zealand gaming security, “Cybercriminals will charge you for a fake cheat and then steal your financial information or credentials. In their own words, Kiwi gamers must ‘become vouchers” and avoid these dangers. as well as powerful online security software to help prevent breaches from occurring.”

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