Video Game Publishers Must Log Player Data to Prevent In-Game Fraud

Over the last few years, businesses across industries have started leveraging data analytics to predict future trends and behavior patterns. By collecting and analyzing data, organizations can forecast equipment failure, anticipate when an online shopper needs assistance, and even detect fraud by recognizing unusual activity and anomalous behavior. For the video game industry, in particular, logging player data gives both publishers and developers the opportunity to prevent the in-game fraud and cybercrime plaguing games worldwide.

Online video games are increasingly becoming favored targets for financially-motivated hackers, cheaters, and fraudsters, as the global games market reached nearly $100 billion last year with no signs of slowing down. As a result, professional cybercriminals have followed the money and shifted their focus from Wall Street and big box retailers to the highly-lucrative video game industry – knowing the massive financial benefits that could come from a successful attack on a popular game.

Cybercriminals in-game activities are not just unwanted and burdensome, they almost always violate terms of service (TOS) and end user license agreements (EULA), and in some instances, are even illegal. That’s because activity such as account takeover and credit card fraud can diminish in-game revenues, compromise the player experience, and even affect the long-term viability of the virtual world and the developer’s IP. Further, the longer fraudsters are allowed to operate in-game undetected, the higher the financial losses and reputational damages to the video game’s developer and publisher. We’ve got to stop these bad guys!

We recently looked back at 2016 and found example after example of some of the world’s most popular video games succumbing to attacks and, as a result, we predicted that threats against the video game industry will only increase in frequency and complexity in 2017. Publishers aren’t powerless to act. And while some have begun to do so more thoroughly than others, the burden is on them to better secure their games. One barrier that many publishers face when starting to mitigating risk is a lack of player log data.

FIXING THE PROBLEM

The good news is that bad guys’ undertakings leave a noticeable trail in the form of behavioral indicators that can be modeled to predict future events. Cybercriminals work in rational, predictable ways, as they attempt to carry out specific attacks that will result in maximum profits. While their actual methods may vary from game to game, and will almost certainly change over time, their motives will lead them to take actions that result in behavioral patterns distinct from those of “good” players who are there to have fun playing the game as the developers intended. But in order to see these patterns, you not only have to make sure that player activities are logged, but also that the right activities are tracked.

To remove cybercriminals lurking in your video games, you have to be able to find them. But if you’re not logging player data, you’re essentially erasing the evidence for them. By tracking player activity, understanding fraud and risk types, and starting as soon as possible, developers can protect their online video game(s) from the financial and reputational damages that result from in-game cyberattacks. The question then becomes – how do you get started?

To help video game publishers and developers ensure that they are logging the information necessary to combat video game fraud and criminal activity, we’ve developed a playbook that breaks down who to track, what to know, when to start, where to log data and why it should be logged. While logging player information might sound daunting, knowing what to log and the alternative of failing to log can help motivate those who will be responsible for such work.

Download The ‘Five Ws’ of Analytics-Based Video Game Fraud Prevention here and contact us with any questions or to schedule a demo of our behavioral analytics and anomaly detection security platform specifically built for video games.