In the weeks leading up to Christmas the number of online transactions increases dramatically - and with it our risk of being targeted by cyber-criminals. Many of us will spend money on technology this year. Maybe we'll treat ourselves, or our children, to the latest games console, smartphone or laptop. It's always a relief when a transaction is complete and the present is paid for, wrapped-up and placed underneath the tree. But this is not the time to switch off our security radar. We also need to give some thought to staying safe online when using the device.
Kaspersky Lab counted 11.7 million attacks on gamers in 2013 - that's an average of 34,000 attacks daily!
There are plenty of phishing scams, designed to trick their victims into paying for discounts on gaming goods.
There's a black market in stolen game accounts, with underground forums selling stolen usernames and passwords to well-known online games. Earlier this year a fake Minecraft tool, created using Java, lured players with the promise of extra functionality, but actually stole credentials in the background. And when Grand Theft Auto V was launched, a number of sites included fake downloads were offering free access to the game - but delivering malware!
Anyone who uses the same password for more than one online account is at greater risk because the stolen credentials can be used to gain entry into other accounts too.
There are dangers of another kind too. If you have bought a new games console, smartphone or laptop for a child or teenager, you need to ensure that they will not be exposed to inappropriate content when they go online. Most devices now come with parental controls that let you restrict access to age-inappropriate material or even prevent them going online at all (for example, if the device is to be used by a young child).
Here's my list of top tips for safe online gaming this Christmas:
- Don't click on random links (especially offers that seem too good to be true) in your e-mail inbox or on social networks. It's always better to directly type the URL of the site you want to go to, rather than clicking on a link, because a link can be spoofed to look legitimate but take you to a dangerous site.