Akamai Security Research has found that cyber attack traffic targeting the video game industry grew more than any other industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Akamai’s new State of the Internet/Security Research Report: Gaming in a Pandemic, the video game industry suffered more than 240 million web application attacks in 2020, a 340 per cent increase over 2019.
The “relentless” web application and credential stuffing attacks targeted gamers and gaming companies throughout 2020.
Mobile games incorporating in-app purchases are also subject to a consistent barrage of attacks, according to the Akamai report.
Criminals are seeking any opportunity to exploit players who spend real money on virtual, in-game items like skins, character enhancements and additional levels.
The report highlights a recent example in which bad actors used a phishing kit to steal player email addresses, passwords, login details, and geolocation information that they subsequently sold on criminal markets.
According to Steve Ragan, Akamai security researcher and author of the State of the Internet/Security report, criminals are relentless, and we have the data to show it.
“We’re observing a remarkable persistence in video game industry defences being tested on a daily – and often hourly – basis by criminals probing for vulnerabilities through which to breach servers and expose information,” Ragan said.
"We’re also seeing numerous group chats forming on popular social networks that are dedicated to sharing attack techniques and best practices.”
SQL injection (SQLi), which targets player login credentials and personal information, was the top web application attack vector in 2020, representing 59 per cent of all attacks Akamai observed against the gaming industry.
That was followed by local file inclusion (LFI) attacks at 24 per cent, which target sensitive details within applications and services that can further compromise game servers and accounts.
Cross-site scripting (XSS) and remote file inclusion (RFI) attacks accounted for 8 per cent and 7 per cent of observed attacks, respectively.
As a result, the video game industry suffered nearly 11 billion credential stuffing attacks in 2020, marking a 224 per cent increase over the previous year.
The attacks were steady and large, taking place at a rate of millions per day, with two days seeing spikes of more than 100 million.
Second only to phishing in popularity of account takeover attacks, credential stuffing attacks were so common in 2020 that bulk lists of stolen usernames and passwords were available for as little as $5 on illicit websites.
Recycling and using simple passwords make credential stuffing such a constant problem and effective tool for criminals, Ragan said.
“A successful attack against one account can compromise any other account where the same username and password combination is being used,” he added.
"Using tools like password managers and opting into multi-factor authentication wherever possible can help eliminate recycling and make it far more difficult for bad actors to execute successful attacks.”
Read the Akamai 2021 State of the Internet/Security Report: Gaming in a Pandemic on their website.
Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans affairs, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. She started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.