Despite online gaming being called, well, gaming, it isn’t all just for fun. Whether players are gaming in their downtime, competing as part of a team, hoping to catch corporate attention and earn sponsorships, or actually making a living with their abilities, online games have become pretty serious stuff.
Precisely for that reason, online gaming is steadily one of the top two most targeted industries when it comes to DDoS attacks. These assaults are launched so companies can gain a competitive advantage over each other, so gamers can earn a competitive advantage over each other or to simply cause a major uproar that the attackers can watch unfold on social media. It’s not all fun and games when your industry has a massive bullseye on its back.
If gamers and those interested in online gaming don’t already know the answer to the question of what is DDoS, they will soon enough. A DDoS or distributed denial of service attack is one that takes aim at an online site, service or platform, such as a gaming platform. It uses a network of devices called a botnet that attackers have infected with malware so they can control them remotely. Using this botnet, attackers aim all the traffic they can muster at the target with the goal of overwhelming either the target to take it offline or, in the case of gaming platforms, merely slow it down enough to make play impossible.
Online gaming platforms are constant targets for the reasons listed above, mainly ones relating to how competitive the industry is and how competitive gamers are with each other. Gaming platforms also make attractive targets because of how easy it is for a distributed denial of service attack to succeed thanks to the nature of the industry as well as the realities of gaming platforms.
Gaming platforms are prone to natural influxes of traffic that are beyond huge. With every release of a game or expansion pack comes a surge of gamers, making it easy for a DDoS attack to simply nudge a server over the edge with a little more malicious traffic. Gaming platforms also suffer because they need to offer constant connectivity with a centralized, always available platform which makes for what’s called a single point of failure – a narrow target that can allow for a big fat attack. These are two of the main reasons platforms including Xbox Live, Nintendo, PlayStation Network, League of Legends, Final Fantasy, Steam, and Blizzard have all been nailed repeatedly.
These days it isn’t just gaming platforms being DDoSed, however. Individual gamers are now suffering the wrath of their competitors, being repeatedly knocked offline at the most inopportune times. DDoS attacks can only be accomplished on individual gamers if an attacker can find that gamer’s IP, however, this is made easy by many voice chat programs which serious gamers love to use as well as private third-party servers supported by PC games like Minecraft.
For individual gamers, a few simple steps should help safeguard your hard work and keep any enterprising 14-year-old from taking you down with an outage. Whatever third-party server or voice chat program you’re using, make sure it is fully updated and patched, adjust your settings so you can only receive requests or calls from your friends list, and check your profile settings to ensure your information – including your IP address – is hidden.
For gaming platforms, unfortunately, the process is not so simple. Safeguarding a gaming platform against DDoS attacks requires leading professional DDoS protection, the kind that takes into account the myriad challenges facing the online gaming industry and can provide granular traffic inspection and near-instant time to mitigation and has a scrubbing server built to handle what even the biggest IoT botnets have to offer.
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The DDoS threat against online gaming and online gamers isn’t going to decrease or dissipate. For as long as online gaming remains a major industry, it will remain a major target, and for as long as gamers are emotionally or financially invested in their games, user loyalty will remain one of the biggest factors in a gaming platform’s success. That loyalty has to be protected at all costs, and since no manner of online weaponry can do it, professional DDoS mitigation must.