MMORPGs 101: PC security and MMORPGs

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Computer security is important for everyone, gamer and non-gamer alike. No one is safe from the greedy eyes of hackers anxious to get their hands on your personal information, especially credit card numbers or bank account info.
Just as most computer viruses out there are made to target Microsoft's Windows operating system, the biggest target for hacking in the MMORPG world is World of Warcraft. With over 11 million subscribers worldwide, it's no wonder that it's also a popular target among identity thieves. But just because World of Warcraft is the biggest target, don't assume that it can't happen with other games.

So what's the point? Why would someone want to hack an MMORPG account? The answer is, of course, money. Getting access to someone's game account also gives access to the in-game items that belong to that account and in some games, in-game items can be sold for lots of money -- sometimes virtual, sometimes real money.

How do hackers gain access to someone else's game account? One way is they get the information they need (account name and password) directly from the account owner. They might get this from an in-game conversation with the victim, or through a "phishing" e-mail. The best way to protect yourself from this threat is to simply never give away your account information, especially your password. It's important to remember that game companies will never ask for your password. If someone does, then it's a sure bet that it's someone out to hack your account.

The other big threat is keyloggers. A keylogger is computer software (a type called "malware") that, once it's on a computer, can record keystrokes and send them to a remote computer over the Internet. A keylogger can record the exact keys used to type in your account name and password, all that a hacker needs to gain control of your account. To protect yourself against keyloggers and other malware, be sure to have good, up-to-date antivirus and antimalware software. There are several good, free programs out there to protect against malware: AVG antivirus, MalwareBytes, and SpyBot. Also, don't log into your game accounts (or other sensitive accounts, like e-mail or online banking, for that matter) from computers for which you're unsure of their virus protection.

Victims of account hacking are usually successful in working with game publishers to regain control of their account, but in many cases hackers can clean out an account of its valuables before the victim even realizes what happened. There can be social ramifications of account hacking, too, if someone else spends much time at all on the victim's account, interacting with the victim's friends. It's best to concentrate on following safe practices that will stop one from being a victim in the first place.

By Cecil Adkins


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