How Gaming Cheats Lead To Malware

The rise of digital gaming has led to a marketplace dedicated to cheats, and security researchers have warned that gaming cheats developers have all the skills necessary for creating and selling malware to perform the nasty tasks on users who leverages their hacks.

The slightest edge over an opponent can decide whether you are winning or losing a game, which means that many players often cheat to gain an unfair advantage. The rise of hyper-competitive digital gaming has resulted in enough demand for gaming cheats that there is a lucrative marketplace dedicated to developing hacks and cheats.

A security expert at Kaspersky Lab, Santiago Pontiroli, started investigating malware-like gaming cheats and found that this is a multi-million industry and many of them are selling subscription models ranging from $10 to $100. Some elite tricks may also cost you $500.

The ‘as-a-service’ model for gaming cheats is similar to that of a malware selling model on the dark web. Malware and gaming cheats are almost the same at their core and cheat developers need to be expert at coding as well as able to develop a software which is not detected by security defenses as malware.

Mayra Rosario, a senior security researcher at Trend Micro, states that creating gaming cheats to install it in a game while not being detected is similar to a virus. She said that when you use a gaming cheat, you are trying to attack without being detected.

Gaming cheats developers often check their software against VirusTotal. Pontiroli said that they check their products against VirusTotal as gaming cheats acts similarly like a malware. So, an antivirus program can often flag gaming cheats. These developers edit the code if the antivirus flags their product to develop a modified software that remains undetected.

You may want to develop gaming cheats to top the scoreboard of a game or to learn how the game’s code works. However, if a person becomes exceptionally skilled in this area, he can also perform some severe hacking. You must also remember that developing gaming cheats is also against the user agreement of many well-known games, which means that creating and selling gaming hacks is against the law.

According to UK's National Crime Agency report, many users begin to engage in gaming cheat sites and ultimately progress to criminal hacking. The report provides examples of teenagers who were initially interested in developing gaming cheats and eventually progressed into cybercrime.

Albert Zsigovits, a security researcher at Sophos Labs, states that developing gaming cheats is the stepping stone towards becoming a malware developer as the skills required for creating both the programs are similar.

In some cases, people distributing cheats also start selling access to VPNs or stolen online gaming accounts credentials. An interest in gaming cheats is not a gateway for cybercrime for most people, but these skills can be dangerous sometimes for some people.

Pontiroli said that you might start with a gaming cheat but may end up learning programming with a negative approach. When a person is playing an online game and a cheater is also in the game. The person may end up quitting the game due to that cheater. In these types of cases, users often cancel their subscription, and they also leave negative reviews on the game. This ultimately damages the gaming company’s reputation.

Pontiroli added that we need to tackle the situation in timely manner, or it will become adverse in the future. As the code of cheats and malware are similar, it can help security researchers to combat against gaming cheat developers. This will ultimately help stop cheat developers to switch their focus to malware.

Major online games have their own anti-cheat system, and a lot of organizations are running bug bounty programs, which encourages hackers to spot vulnerabilities in return for money.

The Games industry needs to ramp up their bug bounty programs, and according to Rosario, there’s always going to be developers trying to cheat the system to do business out of it. She says that the cybersecurity industry and games industry should work together to combat these cheat developers. Zsigovits also states that both the industries may share research work and learn from each other.

Read next: Scammers Are Openly Selling People’s Personal Data on Social Media Platforms.
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