Sony released the PlayStation 2 in 2000 to critical acclaim. It was—and still is—the best-selling console of all time, and what helped the PS2 stay relevant for so many years is Sony’s dedication to adding online functionality, which they did by offering PS2 owners a “network adapter.” This network adapter fits right into the back of the PS2 and enabled users to connect to the internet.
However, online functionality was limited to certain games, and that list of games was pretty small. After all, the internet was still in its infancy, and companies like Sony weren’t sure of the internet’s future. But only a few years later, with the launch of the Xbox 360 and PS3, online functionality would become commonplace. These consoles launching with the ability to connect to the internet—no adapter required—would open the doors for consoles to be more than the gaming machines they once were.
Fast forward to today, and consoles can do more than play games; they can stream movies and TV, listen to music via Spotify, act as a social platform, and much more! But this ability to connect to the internet attracted countless cybercriminals, and since then, consoles have become targets for cyber-attacks and scams.
Security Risks Facing Console Users
Many companies either don’t understand what proper cybersecurity entails or don’t care. Console users saw this firsthand when, in December of 2014, hacking group Lizard Squad shut down Xbox Live and PlayStation Network for two days via large-scale DDoS attacks.
Console users also need to worry about data breaches, which have become common in the past decade. For example, Sony has suffered from three major data breaches in the past decade, with the most recent taking place this year!
In 2017, PS4 users began receiving an influx of spam messages. The contents of these spam messages differed between users, and victims would receive tens to hundreds of spam messages in mere minutes. Why was this happening? The culprit—a site known as Spam PSN—allowed spammers to target specific PSN IDs and send a curated spam message as many times as they wanted.
Spam is annoying, sure, but is it dangerous? In this case, no—they were mere annoyances for the most part. However, PSN is ripe with scammers. Take, for instance, the infamous “PlayStation Girl” scam, where scammers pose as a bored girl looking for someone to chat with. These “girls” were, in reality, bots designed to trick users into clicking a malicious link that would steal the victim’s PSN account information.
This scam is a classic case of a “phishing scam,” a type of scam rampant in and outside of the gaming world.
How Console Users Can Protect Themselves
1. Encrypt Their Online Connection
In a perfect world, console users would be able to connect to the internet without fear of a DDoS attack, man-in-the-middle attack, and vice versa. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and console users need to do everything they can to secure their console’s internet connection. How can they do that? First, they can start by installing a gaming VPN.
A proper gaming VPN allows console users to encrypt their connection to the games they play. This encryption ensures that the user’s IP address stays private and that cybercriminals will lack the means to target their network.
2. Secure Their Accounts With Strong Passwords
One weak password: that’s all it takes for a hacker to gain access to a user’s account. Passwords are incredibly easy to crack nowadays, which is why users need to use the most robust passwords possible, or else their accounts will be hacked. It’s not a question of “if,” but of “when.”
PSN, Xbox Live, Steam, Nintendo Online: all of these services require users to use strong passwords to stay safe from hackers. And yes, data breaches can happen that expose said strong passwords and make them obsolete, and that’s why users also need to change their passwords frequently (around once a month).
3. Avoid Offers That are “Too Good To Be True”
Like the PS Girl scam, there are tons of scams and offers that may come off “too good to be true.” If you run into a message or offer like this, run. Look the other way, block that user, delete the message—do everything you can to protect yourself from that scam.
Phishing scams claim millions of victims every year. Don’t let yourself become one of them.
Gaming is a fantastic medium that has attracted hundreds of millions of players since the 90s, and consoles are a big part of that. However, console users need to be aware of various scams and cyber-attacks that can threaten their fun and safety.