Gamers attacked 11.7m times in 2013 - Telegraph
UK gamers were hit with with 27,049 hacking attempts between 1 January and November 2013

While gamers across the country eagerly unwrap their new PlayStation 4 or Xbox One this Christmas, cyber-criminals are enjoying their own gift – a new wealth of opportunities to infiltrate the gamers’ worlds and steal money, information and even whole identities.

Kaspersky Lab experts have discovered that PC gamers across Europe were hit by a massive number of attacks in 2013. Kaspersky is currently aware of 4.6 million pieces of gaming-focused malware, with the total number of attacks facing gamers hitting 11.7 million globally. On average, users were hit by 34,000 attacks related to gaming malware daily.

Spanish gamers were the worst hit of all, as hackers made 138,786 attempts on them from 1 January to November 2013. Poland was in second with 127,509, followed by Italy on 75,080. The United Kingdom was in seventh place, with 27,049 recorded hacking attempts during the period.

Kaspersky Lab warns that underground forums are ridden with cyber crooks selling access to people’s gaming accounts, such as the portal and marketplace Steam.

The market for usernames and passwords is fuelled by attacks on the gaming companies themselves. Earlier this year, Kaspersky detected a major espionage campaign on a range of massively multiplayer online games makers, with source code and other valuable data stolen.

Malware types target specific games, such as the hugely popular Minecraft. Earlier this year, a fake Minecraft tool built with Java promised to give the player powers such as banning other users, but was stealing usernames and passwords in the background.

When Grand Theft Auto V launched earlier this year, various sites offered fake downloads to access the game for free. But when users tried to get the game, all they got was malware – a classic example of powerful names getting abused to lure victims into downloading malicious code.

Then there’s the typical scams, like phishing. Slews of emails are sent around every time a big gaming launch happens, and at Christmas, attempting to lure users into handing over data or money with the promise of discounts or cheap gaming goods.

“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. If people want to enjoy their new toys this Christmas, they have to be careful, as it’s clear they are facing a greater threat than ever.”

Kaspersky advises anyone investing in new games this Christmas to take the right precautions – don’t click through on any offers that look too good to be true, use strong and varied passwords across your gaming accounts and only download titles from legitimate sellers.