10 safety tips for online gaming

Mother and daughter playing a video game

Whether you’re an eSports pro, killing a few spare minutes on your phone, or enjoying an endless fantasy realm for hours, online gaming is a quickly growing hobby with more than one billion gamers worldwide—and more potential for hackers and cybercriminals to access your information. That said, it’s important to remain vigilant about protecting your online safety. You shouldn’t lower your cybersecurity defenses just because you’re racking up points! Here are 10 tips for staying safe while online gaming:

1. Remember to use strong passwords

Winners use long, complex, and unique passwords. The strongest passwords are at least 12 characters long and include letters, numbers, and symbols. Ideally, your password is not recognizable as a word or phrase. And yes, you should have a unique password for each online account. Sounds hard to remember? Using a password manager has never been easier—many smartphones and web browsers include password managers. The best password managers will even suggest strong passwords!

2. Research your games

Mobile gaming makes up almost half of the global games market. However, just because a game is available on a trusted app store doesn’t guarantee it’s safe to download. Before installing any new gaming apps on your device, make sure it’s legitimate. Check out the reviews or research the internet before downloading.

3. Use multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA), sometimes called two-factor authentication, adds another level of security to your accounts, and now some games and gaming systems allow for MFA. MFA includes biometrics (think face ID scans or fingerprint access), security keys, or apps that send you unique, one-time codes when you want to log on to an account. We recommend you use MFA whenever offered. It’s like building a castle around your loot crate!

4. Turn on automatic updates

We recommend keeping your gaming hardware and software as updated as possible. You don’t have to check your settings tab every morning, either. You can usually set up automatic updates so that updates are downloaded and installed as soon as they’re available from the device, software, or app creator. Note that you might have to restart your device for the updates to fully install. It’s best to do this immediately, but you can often schedule this to happen when you aren’t gaming, like the middle of the night (or perhaps the early afternoon).

5. Look out for phishing attempts

Cybercriminals often entice gamers into clicking bad links or downloading malicious files by offering cheats or hacks—this is known as phishing. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading from a stranger or that you weren’t expecting. If the offer seems too good to be true, chances are it is. Verify the link before clicking it by hovering over it with your cursor to see the link’s true destination.

6. Use a credit card for payments

If a gaming system requires you to tie a specific payment method to your account, choose a credit card over a debit card. Credit cards come with more consumer protections than debit cards, and you have a better chance of getting your money back in case of fraud.

7. Share with care

The more information you post, the easier it may be for a criminal to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes, such as stalking. Think about how much personal information you provide on gaming account profiles. Err on the side of sharing less online. And if a stranger asks you to share this information, say no.

8. Game in disguise

Are you suiting up and playing with people you don’t know? They don’t need to know your real name or any other personal information—they just need to find out how awesome you are at the game. Use a safe username that doesn’t reveal any personal information, such as where you live or your name. In addition, use an avatar instead of your actual photo. If a stranger asks you to share a photo or to turn on your webcam, refuse. They don’t need to see you to play you!

9. Block anyone who makes you uncomfortable

If another player makes you uncomfortable, block them and tell a trusted adult. Remember that you can always kick a player out of the game if they’re being negative or otherwise making you uneasy. Every platform has a way to block and report users. For example, it’s simple to block users on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch systems—you can do this by searching for the player’s profile and then selecting “Block”.

10. Review your settings

As soon as you get a new gaming console or try a new game, review the privacy and security settings and set them to your comfort level. Remember, many game makers default to the least secure settings, and you shouldn’t assume those default settings are configured to what you would like. Your game might default to sharing your behavior and location data with the manufacturer, for example. Think about what sort of data you’re comfortable with sharing.

Final thoughts

Online gaming can be a fun way to spend your time, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks involved. By following these 10 tips, you can help protect yourself from hackers and cybercriminals and safely enjoy your gaming experience.

Remember, always be cautious about what information you share online and be wary of any suspicious links or attachments. If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe while gaming, be sure to report it to a trusted adult. Following these precautions will help ensure your online gaming experience is a safe and positive one!

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