Malware Attacks From Fake PC Games Numbered Over 5.8 Million in Past Year


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There's no doubt that the pandemic gave gaming a popularity boost over the past year, but that's also been accompanied by a boost in cyberattacks on gamers. Kaspersky reported this month that the number of malware and unwanted software posing as popular PC games that it detected (and prevented) surpassed 5.8 million from Q3 2020 to Q2 2021. 

Kaspersky examined attacks pretending to be the 24 most popular PC games and found 2.48 million detections globally in when pandemic-related lockdowns hit in Q2 2020. That's a 66% increase compared to Q1 2020. We'd expect even higher numbers would be reported if Kaspersky expanded its detection range. Kaspersky said the "increased volume may be connected to the rapid growth of gaming activities during the pandemic." 

Out of the 24 PC titles Kaspersky listed, the top five games with the highest amount of disguise malware were: Minecraft, The Sims 4, PUBG, Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V), with Minecraft far and way leading the pack.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Q3 2020 - Q2 2021
Game TitleUsersDetectionsFiles
Minecraft184,887 3,010,891 36,336
The Sims 4 43,252 1,266,804 5,844
PUBG26,724 484,528 10,360
Fortnite 14,702 267,598 6,109
Grand Theft Auto V 14,261 187,114 4,953

These results aren’t too surprising since Minecraft, Sims and GTA V are especially known for their modding communities. Mods in general are rarely distributed through one secure location and are often distributed in many locations. This gives cybercriminals an easy way to disguise malware as gaming mods, especially to oblivious eyes.

The best way to ensure the security of game mods is to know exactly where the mod came from and from what platform. Downloading torrent files from an unknown source is an easy way to get attacked.

Thankfully, things seems to be getting better in 2021. In Q2 of 2021, Kaspersky only detected 636,904 detections such attacks compared to the 2.48 million recorded in Q2 2020. Kaspersky didn't specify why. We suspect it's due to PC gamers moving to other activities as the pandemic gets better. Or, perhaps, PC gamers have become incredibly can hope.

Mobile Gamers Also Targeted

Kaspersky also looked at the 10 most popular mobile games and reported that the number of affected mobile gamers grew by 185% from February 2020 to 3,253 mobile gamers in March 2020. 

On top of that, even though lockdowns have eased, cyberattacks on mobile gamers have continued as people keep playing on their phones. 

"Furthermore, the number of users striving to unwind on mobile phones did not drop significantly after the two waves of the pandemic, showing on average just a 10% drop in users attacked per month in Q2 2020 versus Q2 2021. This showed that mobile threats remained attractive to cybercriminals even as lockdowns were being lifted across the world," Kaspersky said. 

Aaron Klotz
Freelance News Writer

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    And the downside on mobile is that while you have actual decent anti-malware programs, like Sophos X Intercept Mobile, there are a lot of really questionable ones...
  • scottsoapbox
    Lesson: Pay for games.