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Cybersecurity for Gamers: Preventing DoS and DDoS attacks

Gaming has become one of the most popular activities for the youth besides streaming services. The introduction of social and online gameplay has made the field even more lucrative. Companies and brands are investing millions of dollars on the development of new features and more interactive games for players to enjoy.

While social gaming has made games more attractive to younger audiences these days, it has also exposed them to a host of new threats. The introduction of the internet to gaming corresponds with the rise of cybercrime around the world. The annual damages from various cybercrime activities are expected to cost close to $6 trillion by the end of 2019.

So, what type of risks do gamers face? How prevalent are they, and what is to be done to prevent an attack from happening? In this article, we answer all these questions in detail.

Why the gaming industry is at risk?

The trend of gaming has risen sharply in the last few years. 2019 estimates show that the industry will be generating a little over $152 billion. This number is expected to hit $230 billion by the end of 2022 which will make gaming the largest market in the world. Whenever there are large sums of money moving around in a market, there are always elements close by looking to obtain it illegally.

Hackers and other cybercriminals have been causing havoc in world markets targeting some of the biggest names out there. They hack accounts, steal sensitive information and then publish it online for people to use as they will. Once personal data pertaining to someone is left in the open, it can easily be used for identity theft, which ultimately leads to heavy financial losses.

The billions of dollars in the gaming industry are not just going to developers and companies, they are trickling down to individuals too. The winning prize for the Fortnite World Championship which concluded recently was $3 million. Gamers are also making millions of dollars using live stream platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

With so much money in play, it comes as no surprise that gaming is on the radar of cyber criminals worldwide.

What are DoS and DDoS attacks?

Cybercrime has been around for a number of years however, it has recently emerged with a force that hadn’t been witnessed before. Cybercriminals use various tactics to gain access to the system they are targeting. In the case of gamers, the most common attack is DoS and DDoS. Denial of Service and Distributed Denial of Service attacks have the same underlying model but are carried out differently.

Both these attacks involve large volumes of irrelevant traffic being sent to the device of the victim. The heavy data traffic is too much for any device to handle resulting in lags, system crashes and disruption of network connections. Hackers sometimes use botnets, which are automated programs that help them direct loads of traffic to a website, server or any IP address they want.

There are a number of elements which can be a target of DoS or DDoS attacks. Gaming websites, servers or individual computers and devices are all equally at risk. When the data flow becomes too much for the website or equipment to handle, it simply goes offline. This can cause substantial losses to the victim, be it a player or a company.

How to differentiate between the two?

Although they are modelled around the same concept, DoS and DDoS are slightly different from one another. In a DoS attack, a single computer and network are used to flood and take down an IP address. At times, one system is not enough to do the task so a botnet or multiple computers are involved in the attack. This is known as a DDoS attack.

Where do DoS and DDoS attacks originate from?

There can be several motives behind a DoS or DDoS attack. It can come from cybercriminals trying to sabotage a network or gaming server. The source of the attack can also be individuals who are trying to cause damage to a website or player to prove a point. Although it seems like there are financial incentives involved in this process, the situation can come around to it quite easily.

In order to perform a DoS attack, all that is required is the IP address. This is quite simple to track for someone with the right technical knowledge. There have been instances where attackers have demanded certain benefits including money to stop repeated attacks. A DoS or DDoS can cause a server to go offline for several hours at a time which translates to considerable damages.

Are fellow gamers a source too?

Nowadays, DoS attacks are so common that even a layman can rent out a botnet and execute an attack against another person. There are no skills or proper training required in the process. This goes to show and there is evidence to prove the fact that gamers also use DoS attacks against other teams and players in a game to derail their chances of walking away with the prize.

How to tell if a player is under attack?

Although it is hard to differentiate between a normal network outage or a DoS, there are a few things that can make it certain for you. If you experience a sudden disconnection from the server or network, you have reason to believe that a DoS may be involved. Although in order to be sure there are a few things you can do.

Begin by unplugging your router from the power source and from the computer if it were connected through a wire. Turn all your equipment, including PC and console, off. Let it stay for at least five minutes before re-plugging anything and turning it on. If you still can’t connect to the network, call your ISP. They’ll be able to troubleshoot the issue and also verify whether there is unwanted traffic shutting down your IP address or not.

What to do in case of an attack?

If you are able to determine that you are indeed the victim of a DoS attack, the best thing to do is unplug and isolate yourself from the network or setting up a few necessary security elements. Most attackers configure the botnets they are using to continue spamming an IP address as long is stays active. The attack stops as soon as the device or server goes offline. Being offline doesn’t mean you have to stay out of the game though.

There are various ways to reset your IP address to a different one. Unplugging the internet hardware is the easiest way but it can take anywhere between 10 minutes to 12 hours. You can use a router console to directly perform an IP reset from the command and control centre on your computer. Users can also use a gaming VPN to mask their IP address with a different one. Once the IP has been reset, you must verify before reconnecting to the server and continuing the game.

How to protect from DoS and DDoS threats?

An IP reset can work temporarily or permanently depending on your visibility and threat level towards other gamers. If you are a high rated player, there are chances that you’ll come under constant attacks from other players. The only viable solution is to find a way to hide your IP address while playing online games. Official servers like Xbox and Steam automatically conceal gamer IP addresses.

On the flip side, there are games as well as platforms like Minecraft that don’t. Using antivirus and solid firewall are also effective at preventing DoS attacks but they still won’t stop determined hackers. In this case, there are more advanced solutions required like using a dedicated gaming VPN or upgrading your home network and its cybersecurity protocols.

Effective tools to help keep you secure

Antivirus software provides a certain level of protection against gaming focused threats. A gaming Virtual Private Network or VPN serves as one of the most viable solutions against DoS and DDoS attacks. It works by rerouting the users original IP address through a secure server and then to the gaming platform. This makes tracking the exact location close to impossible.

VPN servers can deal with DoS attacks by screening incoming traffic and not allowing any of the unnecessary junk to reach the users’ system. It is important to choose from one of the leading and trustworthy VPN services on the market because otherwise, the levels of security remain ineffective. The VPN can also do more harm than good by reducing ping times and even causing IP address leaks.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity threats like DoS and DDoS are quite frequent in the gaming community. They are detrimental to all parties including players and developers. Gamers can use sophisticated tools like gaming VPNs from companies like Ivacy to make sure that their IP address remains out of harm’s way. In this way, they can avoid being overrun by junk traffic and also prevent the chances of hackers gaining possible entry to their devices.

Published on September 20, 2019