Not all attacks involve exploiting source code or crafting compromised links. Some are just straightforward scams. Mr. Lauro said he once paid for a prize for his son on Roblox, an online game platform, and the prize never showed up. But the transaction was so small — less than a dollar — that his son was not really bothered by it, and Mr. Lauro knew law enforcement would not be, either.
“Little transactions of 60 cents here, there — who is going to investigate that?” he said.
For the person running such a scam, thousands or more of these payments, or microtransactions, can net a high reward. Mr. Lauro and other cybersecurity firms have said that fraudsters often target small in-game purchases, which have become more popular in recent years, though there have been no major studies on how common these scams are.
Kaspersky warns that cheat codes are also a major threat for gamers: Criminals can use fake cheat programs to disable a target’s computer and steal information. In Kaspersky’s analysis of threats to 28 popular games, the company found thousands of files of this type, which affected more than 13,600 people from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.
Kaspersky itself has come under scrutiny, underscoring the murky complexities of cybersecurity. In March, the Federal Communications Commission added the company, which is based in Moscow, to a list of communications services it considers national security threats. Kaspersky said the decision was made “on political grounds.” In any case, the company’s gaming research is consistent with other reports on the industry.
Game studios have also struggled to fend off attempts to steal their users’ data, take their games offline or leak their game code. In these attacks, hackers may use the stolen information as ransom or try to auction it for huge sums of money.
In June 2021, a hacker stole game code from Electronic Arts, the maker of the FIFA and Sims series. The stolen information was put up for auction with a starting bid of $500,000, according to a cybersecurity expert who spoke with The Times.
Rockstar Games, another prominent video game maker, disclosed last month that “an unauthorized third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information” from its systems, including unfinished footage from the next game in the Grand Theft Auto series.