As a gamer myself, I thought that last year was a pretty good one. After all, not only did I get to play both GTA V and Call of Duty: Ghosts (indeed, I'm still playing it and working my may through the prestige levels) but if I had enough spare cash and will I could have bought an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. As it happens, I did buy a Lenovo IdeaPad Y510P which can manage a pretty respectable average of 40fps in Crysis on the high quality settings at native resolution. However, according to research figures from Kaspersky Lab, 2013 was pretty dire for gamers in one regard: they were the target of malware abuse, and then some.
The Kaspersky Lab researchers reckon that there are currently at least 4.6 million pieces of gaming focused malware, with the total number of attacks facing gamers hitting 11.7 million globally. In fact, it says, that on average there were some 34,000 attacks related to gaming malware every single day of last year.
Looking at the European numbers, as I am based in the UK, it appears that Spanish gamers were the main focus with 138,786 attacks against them, closely followed by Poland on 127,509 attacks across the year. Then there's quite a drop in attack rates, with third placed Italy on 75,080 and the figures tumble once again to 47,065 for France in fourth spot. Germany (29,049) is just above the UK (27,049) in fifth and six places respectively, followed by the Ukraine (22,220), Greece (17,203), Romania (13,778) and Portugal (7,458).
But these attack numbers pale into insignificance when you look at them in terms of worldwide attacks on gamers. Apparently, Russian gamers were worse hit of all with an astonishing 8,813,050 attempts followed by Vietnam on 503,947. Perhaps surprisingly, given the bad press the country gets over malware and security issues, China was third with 'only' 376,058.
The full global 'top ten' gamer attacks chart looks like this:
Russian Federation: 8,813,050
It's not that surprising to discover gamers are a target though, browsing through the dark markets of the web you will find plenty of gaming account logins for sale. Steam is particularly popular as far as stolen account sales go, although the consoles don;t escape either. Earlier this year, Kaspersky Lab detected a major espionage campaign on a range of massively multi player online games makers, with source code and other valuable data stolen.
Malware types target specific games, such as the hugely popular Minecraft. A fake Minecraft tool built with Java promised to give the powers like banning other users, but was actually stealing usernames and passwords in the background.
“We’ve just seen two of the biggest console launches ever, with the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. That means there will be more gamers for criminals to target, especially as the Sony and Microsoft machines increasingly use the Internet for a fuller gaming experience. And don’t forget the PC, still the most popular gaming platform and cyber crooks’ favourite target,” says David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. "As computer games continue to become an increasingly prominent and important part of our lives, and our culture, expect malicious actors to up the sophistication and the volume of their attacks on gamers."