The massive increase in gaming popularity comes with a price, as gamers unknowingly expose themselves more and more to identity theft. The cyber-crime world is alert to any potential places where personal information can be extracted easily and used to steal money, identities, and ultimately take advantage of good credit ratings.

By GRAHAM DOESSEL Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Repairs and

We like to alert readers to any places where their personal information may be at risk.

Recently, a security expert, Michael Sentonas warned ABC’s gaming readers of the need to keep their personal information safe. In the article ‘Cyber threats a reality in online gaming.’ One area of threat he identifies is data breach. He says the Sony Playstation data breach was a major example of how gamer’s personal information can easily be compromised.

Sony Australia confirmed in April last year that the personal information of all PlayStation Network account holders worldwide had fallen into the wrong hands. All users were at grave risk of identity theft with the hackers having access to all names, addresses, email addresses, birthdates, usernames, passwords, logins, security questions and more. The NSW Police fraud squad said it was enough information for the hackers to even take out loans on the vicitms’ behalf. Luckily, there were no Australian cases of credit card or identity fraud eventuating from the attack.

Aside from data breaches, Sentonas pinpoints some of the ways individual gamers can be put at risk:

“Gamers who mainly engage in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV and social networking games via Facebook have several common threats to watch out for including gold keylogging, phishing and gaming bots.

Gold keylogging aims to steal “gold” (the currency and valuables a gamer accumulates within a game) and often manifests itself as a Trojan disguising itself as a normal application. A keylogging Trojan tracks the keys typed on a keyboard while the person using the keyboard is unaware. This allows the hacker to obtain your login and password information. A keylogging virus fulfils the same aim however it is designed to replicate itself and spread from computer to computer.

Phishing on the other hand is a much more direct form of cybercrime that occurs via email or instant messaging. The email or instant message looks identical to the game’s official service and will pop up during a game or appear in your email inbox for example. Phishers attempt to acquire people’s personal information, such as banking details or logins and passwords. They pretend to be an honest business distributing an apparently official electronic communication. A typical phishing email asks you to ‘renew your registration / account’. Reputable businesses will not send you random emails or pop ups asking for your personal or financial information.

While gaming bots may not be a direct cyber threat in terms of stealing personal information or attacking bank accounts, they have a clear advantage over real life players in online gaming. Most bots usually play with far higher accuracy than most real life players which essentially constitutes cheating. Players also use gaming bots to control their character while they are away from their computer or console. This allows them to keep the account running to enable the player to accumulate money, objects and experience without having to be in front of the screen,” Sentonas says.

He also warns about the security threats ensuing from mobile devices, which are virtual portable PC’s, at risk of the same if not more security threats than people’s actual computer. Sentonas explains how gamers can be at risk from their smartphone:

“Users should mainly be looking out for malicious mobile apps and games. Some apps are specifically designed with malicious components to secretly track users’ phone calls, text messages and emails to gather potentially sensitive data. Dangerous apps are usually offered for free and masquerade as fun applications. For example, last year 4.6 million Android smartphone users downloaded a suspicious wallpaper app that collected and transmitted user data to a site in China,” he says.

He recommends a couple of vital ways gamers can protect themselves against these threats. Gamers should only install apps and games from official stores from their platforms of choice. He also says a little research such as reading user reviews and checking into the developer would go a long way in protecting against identity theft.

“To help protect your disc-based games, we recommend making reliable backup copies of your saved games (using a USB flash drive) to protect your investment. Avoid storing personal information on the gaming device and consider using security software that protects PCs, tablets and smartphones as well. If children play online games, we recommend parents educate their children to not play with strangers over the internet. Parents should also consider activity-monitoring tools and utilising built-in parental controls,” Sentonas says.

The threats and ramifications of identity theft are real and debilitating. Currently it is the fastest growing crime in Australia, with 1 in 6 people reporting being affected by it. If credit is taken out by fraudsters in the victim’s name, they can end up with their bank accounts emptied or at worse, defaults on their credit file – and this is not easy to recover from. First the victim has to prove they didn’t initiate the credit themselves. This would require documentary evidence and Police reports. But the identity theft victim would be virtually banned from obtaining credit until they are able to wade through the mess that has been created for them on their credit report, and clear their good name.

For help with credit repair following identity theft, contact MyCRA Credit Repairs on 1300 667 218 or visit our main website

Image: David Castillo Dominici/