Five Tips and Tricks for Safer Online Gaming
While you’re protecting the princess or going to battle, don’t forget to protect your device.
You’ve probably come across our articles on how to keep your kids safe while they’re gaming online, but tell the truth: It’s not just your kids who are hanging out on Fortnite and Call of Duty. You like to get your game on too. You probably think you’ve got this whole adulting thing down, but the internet can be a confusing and dangerous place whether you’re 15 or 55.
It’s like the Wild West out there, especially in gaming communities. You can never know for sure who to trust, where it’s safe to go, or what you can click on without risking your device and your personal security. We figured we ought to put together a complete guide to gaming safety. Below you’ll find everything you need to be safe while you’re gaming online, no matter how old you are.
Tips for Online Gaming Safely
The real trick to staying safe when gaming online is common sense. The problem is, it’s sometimes hard to remember to use that common sense when we’re in the midst of gaming. We’ve grouped our suggestions into five easy-to-remember categories that will hopefully help you keep security foremost in your mind — even when you’re facing down dragons, zombies, and masked villains.
1. Keep Your Security Tight
We’re into security technology, so you can probably guess where we’ll start this discussion. What can you do to make sure your security is as tight as possible?
- Install antivirus: The very first thing you need if you’re going to be gaming online is a strong antivirus. That will ensure you don’t stumble onto some booby-trapped links or download a mod that’s adware or worse. Check out our Kaspersky review or our TotalAV review. These antivirus programs scan everything before it gets onto your device, but also regularly scan your device memory in case anything happens to find its way in.
FYI: If you want your antivirus to work effectively, you need to keep it up to date. If your software doesn’t know the latest malware to watch out for, you’re not really protected.
- Install a VPN: A good antivirus is a start, but your devices aren’t completely secure unless you’ve installed a solid VPN as well. A VPN is an encrypted tunnel that connects you to the internet. While you’re in that tunnel, you can be sure no one can track your movements or steal your personal identifiable information.
- Double-check privacy settings: Make sure you know the game and the device you’re playing it on, including what privacy settings they offer. Then make sure you’re using those settings to keep yourself as safe as possible. You should have the ability to limit who can send you unsolicited messages and block other users if you need to.
- Create strong passwords and use multifactor ID: By this point, we should all know how important it is to have strong passwords. If you’re at all worried about yours, you can visit our password checker. You should also update your passwords regularly and never use the same password to log in to multiple services and accounts. If you have the option, take advantage of multifactor identification. That way, even if someone manages to guess your password, they’ll only be able to access one account.
2. Avoid Oversharing
The more information others have about you, the more vulnerable you are. That’s especially true online. Keep as much to yourself as you possibly can.
- Never share passwords: You never want to share your passwords with anyone. It’s also a good idea to use a different password with every account, so even if someone accesses one, they won’t be able to access others.
Pro Tip: Worried about keeping up with all your passwords? Try using a password manager.
- Keep your identity under wraps: Most people know passwords should be secret, but fewer realize you should keep other aspects of your identity secret as well. That includes your name. Always use a screen name, and make sure it bears no relationship to your actual name. Also choose an avatar that can’t possibly give away your identity.
- Keep things to yourself: While you’re keeping your passwords and your name to yourself, you should probably go ahead and keep everything else about your personal life to yourself too. Letting others know you’re heading out of town on vacation, for example, just makes you vulnerable to a home invasion.
3. Do Your Research
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you know exactly what you’re playing and who you’re playing it with, you’re far less likely to wind up in a vulnerable security position.
- Find out about games before you play them: There are lots of reasons to research games before you play them. For one, it will help you avoid downloading apps full of malware. It’s also nice to know what kinds of people typically play the game and how its security features work.
- Know who you’re playing with: Limit who you play with. Yes, you want to show the rest of the world your skills, but playing with friends vastly improves your security.
4. Be Careful What You Click
You know you shouldn’t click links you come across, but it’s easy to forget when you’re in the middle of gaming. Here’s a reminder.
- Don’t purchase things: You desperately want the cheat code that gives your avatar a yellow cowboy hat with pink rhinestones. Resist the temptation. Any time you purchase something in a gaming app, you run the risk that someone will swipe your payment information.
- Use credit rather than debit: If you absolutely must buy something in the app you’re using, buy it with a credit card rather than a debit card. Debit cards take cash directly from your bank account, which means anyone who gains access to the card information could potentially wipe out your life savings. Credit cards, on the other hand, come with built-in fraud protection.
Be Safe: For an extra level of security, invest in one of our best identity-theft protection services. These companies monitor the web for any sign you may have suffered a personal-information breach.
- Don’t download programs: This should go without saying, but don’t download free programs or cheat codes either. They’re even more likely to contain malware.
- Watch out for phishing schemes: If you follow the first three suggestions on this list, you should be fine, but keep in mind that phishing schemes have become increasingly complex. What looks like a survey to find out how you like the game could very well contain malware.
5. Keep an Eye on Yourself
As hard as it may be to believe, the biggest danger to your device and your identity is you. Yes, there are plenty of hackers and thieves out there looking to do you harm, but if you keep your eyes open and take some basic precautions, you can make sure they never get the chance.
- Know how to block: When you’re getting to know an app, make sure you know how to block anyone who may be giving you a problem. If someone seems at all suspicious, don’t be afraid to exercise your right to avoid them altogether.
- Report suspicious behavior: Blocking is important, but you should also take the time to report any suspicious behavior. At a minimum, you want to alert site administrators. If you’re concerned enough, you may want to let law enforcement know.
There’s no shame in admitting you’re a gaming junkie, even if you’re a bit … mature. Unsafe gaming though? That’s unacceptable. If you’re not using antivirus and a VPN, you’re risking your device security and identity. If you’re giving away details about your life, you’re giving criminals information to use against you. Every time you click a link in a chat room, you’re vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. Don’t do it. A little caution can go a long way, especially when you’re gaming.