In a gamer’s quest to win big, many will overlook the broader cybersecurity risks of online gaming. Many app users remain woefully unaware of how unsafe gaming can lead to real-life vulnerabilities. I’ve outlined a few tips to protect yourself better below.

Read the fine print

When was the last time you actually read the Terms of Use before downloading a smartphone app? If you’re like the majority of Canadians, probably not very recently.


Before you click “accept,” take a few moments to review the included information, particularly as it relates to how data is collected and whether it is shared with third-parties. Even if it seems an app just asks for bits and pieces of information—your name and location here, your graduation year and gender there—data aggregators can easily create a holistic user profile. If this information gets into the wrong hands, it poses significant personal security and identity theft risks. Err on the side of caution and limit the amount of data you share with any app.


The same goes for games that require in-app purchases to supercharge scores or buy new capabilities. While tempting, storing your credit card information within an app can put your personal finances at risk. Without knowing how secure an app’s database is or how strong its cyber defence practices are, the benefits aren’t worth the risk.



Verify the source

When a new app takes off, cyber thieves notice. In order to capture sensitive personal information, many will create mock versions that look remarkably similar to the original game but contain malware. Once an unsuspecting gamer downloads the app, their smartphone—along with its other apps, geolocation, photos, email and text messages—become a hacker’s paradise.


To protect yourself and your children, only download apps through reputable sources, including the Apple Store and Google Play. Fraudulent apps may have similar names, so confirm that the name of the app matches what you’ve heard about. A large number of downloads and a well-known developer name may also suggest that the app is authentic. A good rule of thumb? Always trust your judgment when choosing what to download. If something looks suspicious, it probably is.



It’s all just fun and games

Many apps allow users to communicate with one another through instant messaging or chat functions. Especially for children who have not yet learned the do’s and don’ts of online behaviour, security exposures abound.


Before letting your children download the latest and greatest, have a frank conversation with them about how to interact with others online. Explain that they should never share personal information such as their full name, where they live, school or grade with other users, no matter how friendly they might seem. Parents should also be aware that geolocation services can reveal a lot of information about a child’s location. At a minimum, turn off geolocation services when not needed, and supervise your child’s use of apps that use this feature.


Further, remind them that at the end of the day, while it is okay to be competitive, it is just a game. You should never bully, tease or taunt a competitor via instant messaging or chat functions.



Winning the real prize

Getting to the next level, slaying the monster or beating the game is great, but it’s not worth achieving at the risk of compromising your personal security or putting your finances at risk. Practising safe gaming will ultimately net you the true prize: the knowledge that you, your family and assets are safe.

Christie Alderman is Vice President of North America Personal Risk Services, at Chubb.
This article originally appeared as “Out of Harm's Way” on the Risk Conversation blog on Aug. 11, 2016.
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