November 3, 2009

Online Gamers More Prone To Viruses

Research has shown that online gaming has increasingly become the target of virus writers.

A Microsoft research team found that a family of malicious programs has been aimed at titles like Lineage, World of Warcraft, Maple Story and many others.

Accounts are being hijacked and sold through the net's underground market places.

Head of security at Microsoft U.K. Cliff Evans has said that the latest look at the software threats facing Windows showed a strong growth in one family of malicious software known as Taterf.

The research shows a growth of 4.9 million infections in the last six months caused by Taterf. 

Evans said the virus has used a variety of tricks to steal login names and passwords for the most popular online games.

"It's all about getting login credentials," he said. "The question is what might they do with those credentials."

"They might sell them because they are worth something," he said. "By using them they can obtain certain things within the game or they can buy services through some sort of market place."

"There's clearly a financial angle to it that makes it worthwhile," he said.

Secure Play's chief of game security Steven Davis said, "Online game account information has been an increasingly lucrative target for crooks as they can steal the account or loot game currency."

"Crooks also use stolen credit cards for gold farming which has become a much more serious problem," he said. "They are attacking games because it is easy and there is no real interest from law enforcement."

Evans said that gamers need to follow some simple steps to avoid having their account stolen.

"Never log onto a game account unless you are on a machine that you trust," he said. "And never download cheats or cracks from websites."

The research also showed other trends taking place, liking moving away from fake security software. 

Microsoft's statistics showed that the number of machines infected with the fake software fell from 16.8 million to 13.4 million.

Evans said worms that travel through networks independently looking for victims were seeing resurgence.  He said that such self-guided programs were now the second largest security threat to Windows users.

He added that trends revealed in the survey helps give grounds for hope.

"At the moment we're holding things at bay," he said. "There's constant change in terms of the cyber criminals changing their tactics. It's a question of keeping on top of that."

Evans said that every significant update of Windows or new version showed a decrease in the number of infections per thousand machines.

Windows XP operating system had about 35 infections per 1,000 machines scanned.  However, Evans said that only 4 in every 1,000 machines running Vista had infections.

The statistics used covered the first six months of 2009, and the data comes from several sources.


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