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Kaspersky warns against phishing via online games

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Cybersecurity and digital privacy company Kaspersky has warned parents to monitor the games played by their children online, as experts have discovered that cybercriminals launched more than seven million attacks on children, exploiting popular game titles in 2022.

Kaspersky’s latest report titled “The dark side of kids’ virtual gaming worlds” revealed the risks for young players in online gaming, and that focused attacks on this age group increased by 57 percent compared to 2021.

According to the report, the most popular titles exploited by cybercriminals are Minecraft and Roblox, both in 2022 and 2021. The top children’s games ranked by several attacked users even included games for the youngest children – Poppy Playtime and Toca Life World, primarily designed for 3-8-year-old players.

Kaspersky experts observed a 41 percent rise in the number of affected users downloading malicious files disguised as Brawl Stars, reaching about 10 thousand gamers attacked in 2022.

Phishing pages used by cybercriminals to target young players mostly mimicked global titles including Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite, and Apex Legends games. To reach parents’ devices, cybercriminals purposely create fake game sites evoking children’s interest to follow phishing pages and download malicious files.

In this report, Kaspersky experts analyzed threats related to the most popular online games for 3-16-year-old kids. Kaspersky security solutions detected more than 7 million attacks between January 2022 and December 2022.

In 2021, cybercriminals attempted 4.5 million attacks, resulting in a 57 percent increase in attack attempts in 2022.

In 2022, about 232,735 gamers encountered almost 40,000 files, including malware and potentially unwanted applications, that were disguised as the most popular children’s games.

Since children of this age often do not have their computers and play from their parents’ devices, the threats spread by cybercriminals are most likely aimed at obtaining the credit card data and credentials of the parents.

In the same period, nearly 40,000 users tried to download a malicious file, mimicking Roblox, a popular kids’ game platform. This resulted in a 14 percent increase in the number of victims, compared to 33,000 gamers attacked in 2021. Since half of Roblox’s 60 million users are under the age of 13, the majority of victims of these cybercriminals’ attacks are potentially children who lack knowledge of cybersecurity.

Scams on children’s virtual worlds

According to Kaspersky statistics, phishing pages used by cybercriminals to target young players primarily mimicked Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite, and Apex Legends games. In total, over 878,000 phishing pages were created for these four games in 2022.

One of the most common social engineering techniques targeting young players involves offers to download popular cheats and mods for games. On a phishing site, the user may get a whole manual on how to install the cheat properly.

According to the report, what’s particularly interesting is that specific instructions are making a point about the need to disable the antivirus before installing a file. This may not alert young players, but it might be specially created so malware avoids detection on the infected device. The longer the user’s antivirus is disabled, the more information might be collected from the victim’s computer.

“In 2022, cybercriminals even exploited games designed for 3-8-year-old children. This highlights that cyber criminals do not filter their targets by age and attack even the youngest gamers, with the likely target of reaching their parent’s devices. When focusing on young players, cybercriminals don’t even bother to make deception schemes less obvious. They hope children and teenagers have little or no experience or knowledge of cybercriminal traps and will easily fall for even the most primitive scams. Therefore, parents need to be especially careful about what apps their children download, whether their devices have trusted security solutions installed, and should teach their children about how to behave online,” said Vasily M. Kolesnikov, a security expert at Kaspersky.

With this development, Kaspersky suggested that parents should not neglect to show interest in kids’ online activity. Parents also are encouraged to ask them (children) to watch their favorite series of listening to music tracks together. “As an option, you can learn together some secure practices to stay safe online.”

Another option could be parental control apps. But it is also important to discuss this topic with children to explain how these apps work and why they’re needed to stay safe online.

Kaspersky also urged parents to explain to their children that sensitive information should only be shared via messengers and only with people they know in real life.

Most importantly, parents are also encouraged to make talks with their children about cybersecurity more enjoyable and interesting by discussing them with children through games and other entertaining formats.

Kaspersky is a global cybersecurity and digital privacy company founded in 1997. Kaspersky’s deep threat intelligence and security expertise are constantly transforming into innovative security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments, and consumers around the globe. The company’s comprehensive security portfolio includes leading endpoint protection and some specialized security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and evolving digital threats.


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