Cyber threats increasingly target video games - The metaverse is next

April 5, 2022  |  Karoline Gore

Metaverse abstraction

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

The technical infrastructure of video games requires a significant level of access to private data, whether through client-server side interactions or financial data. This has led to what Computer Weekly describes as a ‘relentless’ attack on the video game industry, with attacks against game hosts and customer credentials rising 224% in 2021. There are several techniques to managing a personal online presence in a way that deters cyber attacks, but the ever-broadening range of games and communication tools used to support gaming communities means these threats are only increasing, and are starting to affect games played in single-player.

Gaming exploits

Gaming hacks and exploits are nothing new. There has long been a industry around compromising game code integrity and releasing games for free, and within those games distributing malicious software to breach private user details and deploy them for the gain of the hacker. These have become less common in recent years due to awareness over online data hygiene, but the risks do remain.

In July, NintendoLife highlighted one particularly notorious hack of the Legend of Zelda series that was sold, unlawfully, and earned the creator over $87,000 in revenue. This exploit showed a common route towards tricking customers - deception. Zelda has a notably strong community where fans help each other out, both in learning the game and defending against common exploits; this is why the malicious actor in question was discovered, and why no further harm was done, but it remains a risk. Awareness is often key in avoiding attempted cyber attacks.

Web services to apps

Video games have become increasingly merged with web services and this, too, is raising the risk of attack. According to CISO mag, a majority of the attacks targeting video game services were conducted via SQL injection, a popular form of web service attack that attempts to breach databases. This, in turn, can result in the extraction of private customer details and financial information.

Games have previously sought to use their own platforms for registration and payments. However, in recent years, and especially with the growth of gaming platforms - such as, Steam and EA Origin - user account details are made more vulnerable through their hosting via web services. This is a worrying development when considering the ultimate interface of video gaming, web services, and virtual reality - the up-and-coming Metaverse.

The Metaverse

The Metaverse is a descriptor for an interlinked series of digital worlds that will come together into one VR-powered reality. Pioneered most recently by Mark Zuckerberg and his Meta company, it is considered the future of communication and casual video gaming. According to Hacker Noon, the Metaverse is at unique risk of being subjected to serious cyber attacks.

The Metaverse is unique in that it will require digital currencies to operate. It is envisioned as a world within a world - not simply a service you pay for and then access, but an area where you will actively live and play. That means persistent financial data and constant access to privileged private information. Furthermore, individuals play themselves in the Metaverse; not a created character. One successful attack could claim a significant amount of data from any single user of the Metaverse, making it the ideal target for a new generation of cyber attacks.

In short, the protections that will come up for the Metaverse need to be absolutely world-class. Collaboration is required, and a strong culture of individual diligence and digital hygiene, too. Putting these principles in place today will help to protect the Metaverse before it really gets big, and protect video gamers too.

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