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Play at your own risk: The games made to watch you

A video gamer enjoying his game on a computer.

Someone might be watching all your moves as you play your favourite game from the comfort of your home. There are some video games that invade your personal space and record your personal data.

Over the years, technology giants have invested in virtual gaming across the world. While there are no numbers on how many video game companies are surveilling their players in-game, a new industry of firms selling middleware "data analytics" tools, often used by game developers, have sprung up.

Last year, Tech conglomerate ‘Tencent’ caused a stir when it announced it would comply with the directive to integrate facial popularity generation into its games in an effort to curb addictive behaviour.

While developers might use these data to further refine their games, they border intrusion of privacy. Although this might be done in good faith, other times hackers might take advantage of the loophole and swindle an innocent gamer.

Whether you are a professional gamer, a casual player, or a parent to a gamer child, you should be aware of hackers who might be listening in to your activities. But with the proper protection, one can stop hackers in their tracks before they pose a threat. The question remains, how does one know they are being tracked and how to avoid it.

Common threats for a gamer

With the information at their disposal, some software might be engineered and thrown your way offering a quick fix. Probably you wanted a cheat code whereby you buy from an unverified third party seller who in turn fixes malware to your system.

Account takeover

Using the same username and password for all your gaming platforms is highly discouraged as this serves as fodder for hackers. This is the easiest way to actually gain access and change the login credentials for a gamer. The hackers might demand cash in return or otherwise wipe out your account.

Doxing

This is the act of releasing another person’s information without their consent. The ‘doxer’ simply publishes whatever information they have managed to gather to the public. This mostly includes a person's legal names, addresses and contact information, which may put one at risk of even a simple burglary or physical harm.

Active listening

When you are having a conversation, active listening is a good thing. But when you accidentally leave your mic, camera, or screen capture on and mention or show any personal information, you may be at risk of an attack or even your bank account being hacked since the information is readily available.

Many players have found themselves on the receiving end despite doing their level best in making their space safe. While the simplest solution for online security is not having online data, this is impractical in the digital age because major parts of our social and professional lives are intermediated through web services.

How to enhance safety in the digital world

Google yourself: In as much as this sounds absurd, it is highly advisable. This will bring to your attention old accounts that you probably do not use anymore. If for instance you come across such accounts simply delete them and leave no trace of yourself. This might sound like quite a task but some websites that are readily available online can help you retrieve such information.

Use strong, unique passwords: The key aspects of a strong password are length (the longer the better); a mix of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols, no ties to your personal information, and no dictionary words. You can as well make use of a password manager, and essentially encrypted digital vault to keep your passwords safe.

Quick fact: an 18-character password with numbers only will get a hacker 19 months to guess all the numbers right. But an 18-character password comprising of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and symbols will get them seven quadrillion years to guess.  

Don’t share personal information: Some factors may seem simple but they might turn out to be your scariest nightmare. Using your real name as your username or address is one of them. To be safe one is highly encouraged to make sure there are no identifying factors on display in their username. Also, never share personal details on gaming platforms. In defence, you can use a VPN to disguise your IP address from hackers. 

Only download from reputable sources: One should always make sure their devices are safe by avoiding third-party downloads and ditching illegally downloaded video games.

Use up-to-date, secure equipment: It is as simple as ABC. Download security software and ensure it is always updated and up to date and running smoothly.