Cloudy, with a chance of gaming

Cyber Security, High Technology, Innovation, Technology Posted Jun 17, 2019 by Doug De Orchis

If you’re a gamer, last week was a good week. The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 for short), the premier annual trade event for the video game industry, debuted the latest and greatest this national pastime has to offer. And as always, several exciting announcements were made.

But amidst the new videogame titles being announced and new console technology being teased at this show, monumental shifts in the industry are taking hold. What used to be an industry clearly separated by consoles, desktops, and handheld gaming devices, is becoming increasingly blurred thanks to cloud computing technology. And as the gaming technology evolves, so does the competitive landscape.

This past May, videogame mainstay brands Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. announced they are teaming up to work on cloud and game-streaming technologies, an unusual partnership between two longtime videogame rivals as they face new threats from some of tech’s biggest names. Through the partnership, Sony is considering using Microsoft’s Azure cloud service for streaming its game content. It also calls for potential collaboration between the two involving Microsoft’s artificial intelligence and Sony’s image-sensor chips. The pact comes as Sony and Microsoft face brewing competition from Amazon and Alphabet Inc.’s Google – two cloud-technology titans with designs on grabbing a share of the $130 billion-and-growing videogame industry.

Cloud and streaming technologies have done a lot more than change the competitive vendor landscape – it has changed how players play and connect. These developments recently gave birth to the  competitive eSports industry.

But while these technological developments bring new life to the industry, they also bring new challenges and risks. Personal online gaming accounts and virtual marketplaces within these platforms have given hackers a new resource to steal financial and personal information.

Earlier this month, Akamai Technologies Inc. published a new study that revealed 12 billion attempted credential-stuffing attacks against gaming websites conducted from November 2017 through March of this year. In such attacks, hackers use automated tools to plug compromised usernames and passwords into websites, hoping for a match and a chance to cash in on accounts connected to valid credit cards and other financial tie-ins.

Game developers are also finding themselves in the cross-hairs of hackers. This past spring, researchers at Kaspersky Lab and ESET found evidence that hackers had corrupted versions of the Microsoft Visual Studio development tool, which three different videogame developer companies then used in the creation of their own games. Leveraging this corruption, the hackers responsible could then plant malware in certain games, likely infecting hundreds of thousands of victims with a backdoored version of the programs.

But for all the doom and gloom facing gamers and developers today, the gaming community need not respond with fear, but rather a healthy amount of caution. The gaming industry is one of many over the past few decades that have become more interconnected and vulnerable at the same time. As someone who follows cybersecurity trends and news for a living, I know that any new technology in such industries has a learning curve. Just as we’ve learned safe email and internet practices over time on our personal computers, gamers and developers too will adjust to new habits so they may safely participate in and contribute to their industry.