Online games are very popular across all age groups. Whether on a smartphone, PC or games console, it has never been so easy to interact with other players around the world. And never so unsafe.
“Gaming” has become an important part of the entertainment industry with great cultural acceptance and extensive ramifications to accessories and service offerings. By 2025, this sector is forecast to have a global turnover of almost 200 billion US dollars.  Unfortunately, there are also cybercriminals who take advantage of players, cheat and cause damage. We have therefore summarised some tips on how to stay safe(er) when gaming online.  
False friends: Watch out for phishing attempts
Probably the greatest risk in online gaming is not the technologies used, but the interactions with other people. Therefore, be cautious with all unusual messages that call for an action. Especially if channels or contacts that are actually trustworthy ask you to click on a link or download a file directly in the game, for example, you should be suspicious. Also, remain sceptical if you are contacted by the manufacturer’s support via internal channels. If in doubt, ask one too many questions via another communication channel.
Keep your system up-to-date and secure
Use different and strong passphrases for all different online accounts. This way, attackers cannot easily guess your passwords, take over, and abuse your accounts. Secure your devices by always using the latest version of the operating system and gaming software or mobile app. Activate automatic updates if possible. By keeping your devices and gaming apps up to date, you eliminate most known vulnerabilities.
Caution when trading and exchanging on third-party platforms
Many online games have their well-known external marketplaces and forums where interested parties can additionally inform themselves, trade, and exchange or even buy virtual goods. As in the real world, there are also scammers there who try to trick you and steal your money or virtual currency. Therefore, be especially careful outside the gaming platform. Only interact with people who have a good reputation and whom you can trust.
Look for original software and authenticity of sources of supply
Although it may be tempting, there is always a risk of additional malware and backdoors from modified programmes with non-original software. Therefore, only download game software and add-on packs from trusted websites. Attackers often create fake or infected versions and then distribute them from their own server. Besides, if a game or an add-on requires the deactivation of security tools or even system settings, you should not use it.
Early education for children and adolescents
Education as early as possible and open dialogue about the dangers and risks are the most effective measures you can take to protect your children. Ask your children to show you which online games they use. Pay attention to security settings, strong and unique passwords, tone with each other or limit them to trusted players, and train your children not to share private information online. Find out whether your child’s games support in-app purchases and how to control these safely. Often there are special settings to prevent excessive spending in advance.
Cost trap Free-to-Play
Aggressively advertised free-to-play games require special caution in the meantime. Often, there are systematic attempts to bind children and young people in particular to the game with microtransactions and to spend an enormous amount of money in the process. Together with the Klicksafe Youth Panel, the saferinternet.at platform has developed an information and prevention quiz to point out such dangers in time and prevent a “gaming money disaster” (quiz in German). 
Conclusion: It is important to be attentive when playing online games in order not to fall for clumsy scams. Especially when something sounds too good to be true, it might often be a scam. It does not always have to be about money — data, accounts and other information can be valuable to attackers too.
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