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UK’s leading online security expert offers advice as he warns scammers could target gamers in the rapidly-expanding metaverse

  • 71 per cent of gamers have been - or know someone who has been – targeted by scammers when gaming online 

  • Two thirds (66 per cent) of gamers have gamed or want to game in the Metaverse, a network of virtual 3D worlds 

  • Metaverse and bots among new ways online criminals are targeting gamers according to leading security expert Jamie Woodruff, who has partnered with TalkTalk to provide top tips for gaming safely ahead of Safer Internet Day 

7th February 2022: Jamie Woodruff, one of the world’s leading authorities on cyber security and an avid gamer, says that the Metaverse is among the new ways scammers could target the growing number of online gamers in the UK. The warning comes as new research from connectivity provider TalkTalk shows that 71 per cent of gamers have been targeted, or know someone who has been targeted, by cyber criminals when gaming online – which is why TalkTalk and Jamie want to help make sure gamers protect themselves against the growing risks posted by scammers. 

Jamie claims that the Metaverse is one of the most unknown and least regulated places when it comes to internet safety. And it’s only increasing in popularity – in fact, TalkTalk network data showed that over 5,000 Oculus headsets, which most gamers use to access the Metaverse, were connected to TalkTalk’s network on Christmas day placing it in the top five gaming gifts for the first time.  

According to TalkTalk’s research, 29 per cent of gamers have already gamed in the Metaverse, while a further 37 per cent say they plan to. Woodruff warns that the lack of identification checks makes it easy for scammers to disguise themselves as other gamers through fake identities or avatars. Would-be scammers can fake their age, location, picture and other details, sometimes even to impersonate someone you know and trust, to gain personal information such as your logins or passwords.  As a back-up security filter, set up secure Multi Factor authentication on your online gaming and social media profiles to prevent hackers from being able to access your accounts.  

 

Beware the bots  
Woodruff also warns that scammers are increasingly using bots to part gamers from their cash, with 4 in 10 (41 per cent) of gamers suspecting they have already encountered bots when playing. Bots are automated programmes set up and controlled by computers, that mimic the behaviour of humans and are now being used on gaming platforms to lure gamers into buying in-game currency – popular in immersive games such as World of Warcraft – allowing them to steal their financial details in the process. 

TalkTalk research found that nearly half (46 per cent) of gamers have purchased currency in-game, with 47 per percent admitting to handing over financial details to other players when doing so – a huge "don’t do this” according to Jamie as it’s one of the easiest ways scammers gain access to your bank accounts.  

 

Long sessions leave gamers vulnerable 

The escalating length of gaming sessions is also leaving the door ajar for scammers according to Woodruff. TalkTalk’s research found that 42 per cent of gamers game at least once a day, while on average the longest gaming session per gamer was 4.3 hours. 8 per cent of gamers even admitted to gaming for more than 10 hours at a time, while one third (32 per cent) described themselves as addicted.  

Spending such long periods behind the controller can inhibit our ability to spot malicious content. Scammers are on the lookout for tired gamers and may try to befriend them on chat rooms, Woodruff warns. Worryingly, 42 per cent say they are more likely to trust another gamer they don’t know if they have won a game playing alongside them – which is why Woodruff advises to take breaks every hour, and if you’re feeling remotely tired, stop for the day. 

 

Careless passwords cost pounds 

Passwords are crucial to online security and gaming is no different. Despite this, half (49 per cent) of gamers admit to using a single variation among their gaming accounts and consoles, while 35 per cent use the exact same password for all their gaming activities.  

Woodruff advises that all gamers use a password manager, like the one included in TalkTalk’s SuperSafe package, to ensure that if one account or device is breached by scammers, others remain secure.  

 

Jamie Woodruff commented: “While scams are the last thing people tend to think about when gaming, it’s important to keep your security  front of mind – especially when playing in immersive virtual worlds.  Whether it’s adjusting the security settings on new devices, taking a break after a long session, practising good password etiquette, or choosing a broadband provider that offers useful security features as standard like TalkTalk, it’s really important to stay safe online when gaming.” 

Mark Johnson, Head of Customer Security at TalkTalk, said: “With internet usage at record levels and more gaming devices being connected to the network than ever before, it’s never been more important to stay safe online. Keeping our customers safe is our number one priority, which is why we offer a range of security add-ons including award-winning SuperSafe device protection and our HomeSafe web filter comes included as standard. 

“By following Jamie’s easy tips our customers can game with greater peace of mind and ensure their sessions are remembered for all the right reasons.”  

 

Jamie Woodruff’s advice for staying safe when gaming online: 

  1. Never respond to gamers asking for personal details; they might be bots: Increasingly players buying virtual money or digital assets online are being targeted by bots, who ask for personal details that might be associated with your bank accounts. Odds are they don’t just want to send you a birthday card. 

  2. Always use a new, strong password when setting up gaming tech: You should never use personal information – such as family or pet names – and ideally should use a password manager like the one included in TalkTalk’s SuperSafe add-on, that securely stores long, hard to guess passwords (like B*bX$%y9LUW7kyk2).   

  3. Don’t click on anything shared in gaming chat rooms: Scammers often use chat rooms as a way of spreading malicious content, so if someone shares a link with you make sure the URLs match the genuine website. Otherwise, you may end up on a phishing website and targeted by scammers.  

  4. Make new Metaverse friends with caution: Many scammers now use false identities and avatars on the Metaverse so they’re not identifiable, despite acting and sounding like a real person. As a back-up security filter, set up secure Multi Factor authentication on your online gaming and social media profiles to prevent hackers from being able to access your accounts. 

  5. Be extra vigilant at the end of a long gaming session: Scammers often target tired gamers who they know have been playing for hours. If a player approaches you with strange questions at the end of a long gaming session, log off and take a break. If anyone ever pressures you to make a decision there and then, such as clicking on a link in a chat, always walk away. 

 

TalkTalk’s online security add-ons: 

TalkTalk’s Future Fibre packages come with eero Secure included as standard – providing a range of online security features:  

eero Secure helps to block viruses, malware, phishing, and other malicious threats, all while improving load times for ad-heavy sites. Plus, with advanced parental controls, users can easily block websites for family-safe browsing, streaming, and social media use. 

TalkTalk’s Fibre 35 and 65 packages come with HomeSafe included as standard and SuperSafe can be added for further online protection: 

HomeSafe is a family-friendly web filter for home Wi-Fi, blocking inappropriate content, as well as sites that could harbour malware, for any device that’s connecting to it. HomeSafe Scam Protection also helps to protect your devices from malicious links, and the ‘Homework Time’ feature also allows parents to enforce scheduled breaks from gaming sites. It’s free, there’s nothing to download – it just needs activating in My Account.  

SuperSafe provides online protection for up to 10 devices for just £4 a month, through its Online Defence and Password Manger features. It fights online viruses that try to infect a device or try to steal personal information, as well as securely storing passwords. It’s software that’s downloaded onto any mobile tablet or computer.  

For more information about staying safe online visit: https://help.talktalk.co.uk/security