Action Line: Video games carry identity theft risk
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Thursday, November 10, 2011
11/10/11 at 5:00 AM
Dear Action Line: After hackers got into Sony Pictures' PlayStation network site and stole all their users credit card information, I think a warning would be in order for parents who will spend millions sending their children off into their newest MW3 missions (network-based computer games). - C.H., Tulsa.
The worrisome detail in the Sony Pictures' PlayStation network hack (70 million customers worldwide) and Sony Online Entertainment (25 million) is the hacks may have compromised credit card data, email addresses and other personal information (see tulsaworld.com/pcworldsonyhack ).
Sony said it first investigated "unusual activity" on the networks April 19, but did not warn customers of the thefts until April 26. The hacks were achieved using a well-known, basic technique, showing how poorly the company guarded its customers' valuable secrets. Security experts say the attack used rogue commands to extract sensitive data from poorly-constructed websites.
"Any website worth its salt should be built to withstand such attacks," said Graham Cluley, of Web-security firm Sophos Ltd. (see tulsaworld.com/sophosltd ).
With parents of gamers expected to buy 16 million copies of MW3 and 8 million copies of "Battlefield" this shopping season, Adam Levin, founder of Identity Theft 911 (tulsaworld.com/identitytheft911 ) explains how children and adults can keep such information safe while gaming this holiday season.
The following tips are adapted from the National Cyber Security Alliance (see tulsaworld.com/ncsa ).
Security suite: Before your kids start playing, be sure your computer has an activated security suite: a firewall, anti-spyware software and anti-virus software.
Passwords: Create strong passwords for gaming accounts. Passwords should be at least eight characters long and contain letters, numbers and symbols.
Join in: Participate in the game with your kids. Make sure they know how to block and/or report cyberbullying. Ensure children's usernames do not reflect their real names, locations, genders, ages or any other personal information. Have players use avatars - not their actual pictures. Read and understand game ratings for games they want or are playing.
Parental control: Keep the computer in an open area so you can monitor their online activities. Ensure they know they shouldn't send materials to fellow gamers containing private information or data. Use built-in parental controls on your Web browser and don't let them download anything without your permission, including "cheat sheet" programs claiming to help them play the game better as they could really be malware carriers. See Norton Internet Security (tulsaworld.com/nortoninternetsecurity ).
Prohibition won't work: Children will use computers and game consoles, even if they're at school or friends' houses, despite your prohibitions. If you talk to them about risks and good judgment, they'll get a lot more good things out of the Internet.
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.