Gamers hit by over 4 million cyberattacks in 2023, Minecraft most affected.

Gamers hit by over 4 million cyberattacks in 2023, Minecraft most affected. (Source – Shutterstock)

Over 4 million cyberattacks unleashed on Gamers in 2023 – with Minecraft as the main target

  • 2023 saw Minecraft gamers as prime targets in over 4 million cyberattacks.
  • Millions of gamers are facing threats from sophisticated Trojans and phishing schemes.
  • Newzoo’s 2023 report shows a large percentage of gamers are underage – presenting an easy target for cyberattackers.

The landscape of video games is witnessing robust growth, with Newzoo’s 2023 report showing a significant demographic engagement: two out of every five people on the planet, over three billion in total, are now gaming on some level, which is a 6.3% climb from the previous year’s figure.

Revenue streams in the gaming world have swelled to a hefty US$242.39 billion globally, with the Asia Pacific region being a significant contributor to this pot. Looking ahead, expectations are set high, with forecasts predicting the industry’s global earnings will rocket to US$583.69 billion by the dawn of 2030.

While the industry’s growth trajectory has been peppered with the launch of blockbuster titles like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Hogwarts Legacy, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, age-old fan favorites haven’t lost their sheen. The blocky universe of Minecraft still sees a steady stream of architects crafting their virtual domains, and the competitive arenas of DOTA 2 and CS:GO remain battlegrounds for sharpened skills and strategic plays, with the latter notably gaining further traction among gaming enthusiasts.

The increasing revenue and expanding base of gamers signal growth for the gaming industry, but they also attract unwanted attention from cybercriminals. The lure of popular and highly anticipated game releases is a tactic frequently used in malicious cyber-campaigns.

This is of particular concern when considering the demographic involved; as of 2022, nearly a quarter of the gaming population was underage, potentially presenting less of a challenge to seasoned attackers. The Newzoo report delves into the nuances of the threats facing the gaming community in 2023.

Through meticulous research, Kaspersky has unveiled over four million instances of attempted infections targeting gamers globally from July 2022 to July 2023. These cyber-offenses included a spectrum of attack vectors, from DDoS onslaughts and illicit cryptocurrency mining operations to intricate Trojan attacks and phishing maneuvers exploiting vulnerabilities in web security.

Top 10 gaming-related cyberthreats from July 2022 to July 2023 - Minecraft 2023.

Top 10 gaming-related cyberthreats from July 2022 to July 2023. (Source – Kaspersky)

Minecraft and the 2023 cybersecurity breach analysis

On closer examination, Kaspersky’s defensive solutions identified 4,076,530 instances of attempted desktop infections, which involved 30,684 unique files masquerading as legitimate games, modifications, cheats, or game-related applications. These attempts affected 192,456 users around the globe.

The majority of these files were tagged as potentially unwanted software, with a substantial percentage categorized under ‘not-a-virus:Downloader,’ indicating they possess the capability to pull other programs into the system, sometimes with malicious intent. Adware and Trojans were identified on the list of threats as significant concerns for gamers using desktop computers.

Minecraft remains the prime vector for such cyberthreats, with its vast monthly active user base of over 160 million in 2023. This platform alone was the vehicle for threats affecting 130,619 users during the analyzed period. Following Minecraft, other game titles such as Roblox and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive also served as popular facades for malicious software, with percentages of alerts and affected user numbers painting a grim picture of the risks involved.

Turning to the mobile gaming sector, which constitutes nearly 40% of the global population, or over three billion individuals, as per Newzoo’s 2023 report, the situation is equally concerning. This platform’s accessibility and rapid growth make it a fertile ground for cybercriminal attacks. Between July 2022 and July 2023, Kaspersky recorded 436,786 attempts at infecting mobile devices, impacting 84,539 users.

An X user commented on the increasing number of mobile gamers.

An X user commented on the increasing number of mobile gamers. (Source – X)

The 2023 mobile gaming crisis

Again, the favored title for cybercriminals targeting mobile devices was Minecraft, accounting for 90.37% of mobile game-related attacks and affecting 80,128 users. A specific instance of such an attack was seen in Indonesia, where the Trojan.AndroidOS.Pootel.a was used as a means to exploit Minecraft gamers.

The malicious app directed users to a fake marketplace page for Minecraft, which then initiated a stealthy process of subscribing the user to premium services without their knowledge, utilizing the Google Phone Number Hint API to acquire the necessary phone numbers for subscription activation.

The prevalence of cyberthreats in mobile gaming was further highlighted by the high number of incidents in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Minecraft-related cyber alerts affected 54,467 users. PUBG: Battlegrounds and Roblox were not far behind, indicating the widespread nature of the problem across various popular mobile gaming titles.

Moreover, the discovery of the SpyNote Trojan on the Android platform, targeting Roblox players with spyware capabilities such as keylogging, phone camera manipulation, and fake Google or Facebook application interfaces, underscores the advanced techniques employed by cybercriminals to infiltrate and exploit user privacy and data.

The report also highlights the dangers of phishing schemes and counterfeit distribution sites. These sites often attract gamers by posing as legitimate sources for downloading popular games but ultimately serve as fronts for distributing malware or irrelevant content, which bears no resemblance to the promised game files.

Kaspersky’s cybersecurity expert, Vasily Kolesnikov, emphasizes the dynamic nature of the gaming industry, which is rich in personal and financial data, presenting tempting opportunities for cybercriminal exploitation.

“They exploit gaming accounts by pilfering in-game assets, virtual currency, and selling compromised gaming accounts, often with real-world value. The relentless pursuit of personal data has led to a surge in ransomware attacks, even affecting professional gamers who depend on uninterrupted play. This underscores the critical need for enhanced cybersecurity awareness within the gaming community,” Kolesnikov concluded.

Kolesnikov’s analysis culminates with a call to action for heightened vigilance and proactive defense measures to protect against the evolving threat landscape in gaming, and especially in Minecraft in 2023.