It’s easy to believe that ransomware only strikes large organizations after seeing reports of the malware hitting power generation companies, pipelines, hospitals, charities, and other big establishments. While ransomware gangs hit such organizations because they can extort more money, the malicious software can certainly infect and hijack any computer.
What Is Ransomware?
But first, let’s start with a ransomware definition before exploring how gamers can stop ransomware virus attacks. A ransomware is a type of malicious software that cybercriminals use to extort computer users. Ransomware can lock systems or encrypt essential files. It usually asks for a fee to restore access and may even threaten to delete files permanently unless its demands are met quickly.
Is Ransomware a Computer Virus?
Technically, ransomware is not a computer virus; it’s only one of many types of malware on the Internet. Ransomware, PC viruses, computer worms, Trojans, adware, toolbars, browser hijackers, spyware, rootkits, etc., all fall under the malware umbrella.
Does Any Ransomware Target Gamers?
As mentioned above, ransomware can infect any computer. However, there are some strains of ransomware that target gamers. For example, ThiefQuest, also known as EvilQuest, is a dangerous ransomware that can drop a keylogger on computers and even steal files. ThiefQuest hides inside pirated macOS software and circulates through torrents.
Unfortunately, ThiefQuest is just the tip of the iceberg. One cybersecurity company says it blocked over 5.8 million malicious threats pretending to be PC games. Usually, Trojan ransomware hides inside corrupt installers on piracy websites.
How Can Gamers Mitigate Ransomware Attack Risks?
The most obvious way for gamers to protect themselves from ransomware is to avoid pirated games because many contain ransomware and other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). It’s best practice to download titles from authorized platforms. However, even then, it’s good to exercise caution — unfortunately, games secretly carrying malware can also make it to Google and Apple’s official platforms. So, gamers should avoid downloading unknown titles and check reviews first from anywhere.
Gamers should also download anti-malware software that enhances their operating system’s security app. While Windows and macOS are competent at defending computers against legacy threats like viruses, they can struggle against advanced malware like ransomware. In fact, Windows anti-ransomware technology is deactivated by default and can also throw up false positives and crash programs.
Using a pirated operating system (OS) is also bad for the security of computer gamers. Not only can a pirated OS have ransomware, but it can carry rootkits and backdoors that help threat actors take over a computer. Additionally, an unlicensed OS misses out on timely security updates. Such patches are critical because they can block vulnerabilities that ransomware exploits. For example, the dangerous WannaCry attack mostly strikes unpatched Windows systems nowadays.
Besides updating the OS and downloading anti-malware tools, gamers should recognize another ransomware threat vector: phishing emails. Such fake emails trick recipients into opening them and downloading malicious attachments that infect computers with ransomware. Computer users need to learn to identify phishing attacks to win the game against ransomware.
Ransomware is a dangerous foe for gamers that uses multiple attack vectors. Gamers need to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to shield their machines and their data.