February 8, 2022
Jamie Woodruff, a leading authorities on cyber security, says that the Metaverse is among the new ways scammers could target the growing number of online gamers in the UK. The warning comes as research from connectivity provider TalkTalk shows that 71 per cent of gamers have been targeted, or know someone who has been targeted, by cyber criminals when gaming online.
Woodruff claims that the Metaverse is one of the most unknown and least regulated places when it comes to internet safety. And it’s only increasing in popularity – in fact, TalkTalk network data showed that over 5,000 Oculus headsets, which most gamers use to access the Metaverse, were connected to TalkTalk’s network on Christmas day placing it in the top five gaming gifts for the first time.
According to TalkTalk’s research, 29 per cent of gamers have already gamed in the Metaverse, while a further 37 per cent say they plan to. Woodruff warns that the lack of identification checks makes it easy for scammers to disguise themselves as other gamers through fake identities or avatars. Would-be scammers can fake their age, location, picture and other details, sometimes even to impersonate someone a gamer knows and trusts, to gain personal information such as logins or passwords.
Beware the bots
Woodruff also warns that scammers are increasingly using bots to part gamers from their cash, with 41 per cent of gamers suspecting they have already encountered bots when playing. Bots are automated programs set up and controlled by computers, that mimic the behaviour of humans and are now being used on gaming platforms to lure gamers into buying in-game currency – popular in immersive games such as World of Warcraft – allowing them to steal their financial details in the process.
TalkTalk research found that nearly half (46 per cent) of gamers have purchased currency in-game, with 47 per percent admitting to handing over financial details to other players when doing so – a huge “don’t do this” according to Woodruff as it’s one of the easiest ways scammers gain access to your bank accounts.
Long sessions leave gamers vulnerable
The escalating length of gaming sessions is also leaving the door ajar for scammers according to Woodruff. TalkTalk’s research found that 42 per cent of gamers game at least once a day, while on average the longest gaming session per gamer was 4.3 hours. Some 8 per cent of gamers even admitted to gaming for more than 10 hours at a time, while one third (32 per cent) described themselves as addicted.
Spending such long periods behind the controller can inhibit the ability to spot malicious content. Scammers are on the lookout for tired gamers and may try to befriend them on chat rooms, Woodruff warns. Worryingly, 42 per cent say they are more likely to trust another gamer they don’t know if they have won a game playing alongside them – which is why Woodruff advises to take breaks every hour.
Careless passwords cost pounds
Passwords are crucial to online security and gaming is no different. Despite this, half (49 per cent) of gamers admit to using a single variation among their gaming accounts and consoles, while 35 per cent use the exact same password for all their gaming activities. Woodruff advises that all gamers use a password manager to ensure that if one account or device is breached by scammers, others remain secure.
Woodruff commented: “While scams are the last thing people tend to think about when gaming, it’s important to keep your security front of mind – especially when playing in immersive virtual worlds. Whether it’s adjusting the security settings on new devices, taking a break after a long session, practising good password etiquette, or choosing a broadband provider that offers useful security features as standard like TalkTalk, it’s really important to stay safe online when gaming.”
Mark Johnson, Head of Customer Security at TalkTalk, said: “With internet usage at record levels and more gaming devices being connected to the network than ever before, it’s never been more important to stay safe online. Keeping our customers safe is our number one priority, which is why we offer a range of security add-ons including award-winning SuperSafe device protection and our HomeSafe web filter comes included as standard. By following Jamie’s easy tips our customers can game with greater peace of mind and ensure their sessions are remembered for all the right reasons.”