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Spoofing Attacks in Gaming: Popular Methods for Hacks and Cheats

Teen playing video game on desktop computer
The gaming community is among the most lucrative targets for cybercriminals to exploit and make a quick profit. While growing ad revenue, valuable sponsorships that bring in ever-increasing audiences for tournaments, and prize pools in the millions undoubtedly draw the attention of gamers and fans — sophisticated cybercriminals are also captivated by the cash. Cheats and hacks often rely on spoofing to gain access to closed systems, steal data and money, or spread malware.

Different Types of Spoofing Attacks and How They Work in Gaming

Spoofing attacks come in many different forms. Here’s how they are being used in gaming to gain access to log-in credentials, insert damaging malware, cheat, and steal your hard-earned revenue:
  • Website/URL spoofing: This method is all about making a malicious website look like a legitimate one. The spoofed site will look like the login page for a website you trust—it will match the branding, user interface, and even look like the same URL at first glance. Cybercriminals use spoofed websites to capture usernames and passwords (aka login spoofing) or drop malware onto a consumer’s computer.Epic, the creators of Fortnite Battle Royale, recently released the game on the Android platform. However, it bypassed the Google Play store and is distributing directly to consumers. In doing so, they’ve unleashed a surge of doppelgänger websites. These lookalike sites may appear to be official but are instead phishing sites. They may even be distributing an APK (Android application package) that’s infused with malware.
  • GPS spoofing: Essentially, this spoofing method involves tricking a device’s GPS into thinking the user in one location, when they are really in another. This method was most notoriously used as a way to hack and cheat Pokémon Go. GPS spoofing was famously used as a way to cheat and catch different Pokémon, take over a fighter gym and win in-game currency. Hackers and cheats also use GPS spoofing to gain access to country-specific game features.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks: A MiTM attack occurs when a malicious attacker hijacks the sites and applications during the flow of communication data between client and server, by tricking clients into believing he is the server and tricking the server into believing he is the client.The endgame of hacker performing a man-in-the-middle attack is to reroute funds or solicit sensitive personal information like credit card numbers or logins. According to data published by Unity, a gaming tech provider, in-app purchase spending spiked 24% globally in 2020 at the peak of the pandemic.  The average per-user annual in-app spend in the U.S. is $79, with $44 of that spent on gaming. If hackers reroute these funds, this quickly dwindles game studio profits.

Why is the Gaming Sector a Target for Spoofing Attacks?

The gaming industry has taken the world by storm and as the market continues to grow, it’s inevitable that attackers will look to capitalize on vulnerabilities at every stage of the workflow. Cybercriminals are undoubtedly paying attention to the valuation of the gaming market and they’re looking to make a quick buck by modding games, diverting revenue streams from in-app purchases, and stealing valuable intellectual property.   Fraudsters have identified mobile games as a key opportunity to monetize stolen credentials. Gamers are also a niche demographic known for spending money, so their financial status is also a tempting target.

Detect and Prevent Spoofing

At the end of the day, it takes multiple layers of due diligence from game developers and security professionals to create a secure workflow and automated responses to vulnerabilities. Developers and game studios must implement robust mobile app security to protect revenue and intellectual property. Key techniques include environmental checks, anti-tamper technology and code obfuscation. Together, tools that provide these security methods create strong protection against all kinds of spoofing attacks to keep hacks and cheats out of the game. If you’re developing a game and would like to inject defense-grade protection into your app, contact our team to discuss your needs with a security specialist.
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