A Gamer’s Hacking Story: Online Gaming Security and Privacy

The story of how a gamer comes to embody such a name has been told so many times that it’s becoming a cliché: like many of my fellow gamers, I began playing video games at a young age. For me, it was Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega when I was 4 –– turning on my system and playing for endless hours still remains a vivid memory. However, this is not a story of how I grew into a gamer; this is a story about my gaming account, gaming security, and my mother’s credit card.

I had my first online gaming experience when I was 13 and got my first Xbox 360. I was excited to be able to connect with friends and foes to play my games. I instantly created my profile, providing my address, phone number, email address, and my mom’s credit card for the online membership –– whatever they needed to grant me access.

It wasn’t long before I could play the hero in my own campaigns, or engage in some fierce competition against friends. Soon, I could play against anyone and accrue better stats as I went on. Eventually, I found and signed into a stat tracking site; many of my fellow gamers can already see where this is going. The site sold me on the promise of better stats and points, which were the former Microsoft currency that could be used to purchase items from places like the Xbox Live Marketplace or the Windows Store. I needed to have those points.

Naturally, what everyone thinks would happen, did happen: the site did not give me better stats and points for signing up; rather, they were Internet users with malicious hacking intentions. These hackers proceeded to change all the information in my account, with one exception: they still had my mother’s credit card. It started with $1350.00 in games, downloaded straight to their console, and by the end the hackers had racked up a $3000.00 bill on my unsuspecting mother’s credit card.

Mom, being understandably furious, contacted Microsoft, who informed us that they did not have the security protocols in place to gain back control of my account and that many of my account details had been changed. Instead, Microsoft locked my account, costing me two years of hard work and spent money. I remember being so frustrated that they had taken my account, my virtual self, away from me, and I was being punished because someone else breached my online security.

On the other side, we were also having trouble with my mother’s credit card and the bank. They were having difficulty finding where the money ended up and accused my mom of taking it herself. This process, as expected, went on arduously until eventually my mother got her money back months later. Microsoft never re-opened my account.  

Having your account hacked is infuriating, time consuming, and expensive. All in all, though, I have to write it off as a lesson learned and a painful gamer right-of-passage complete, but it shouldn’t have to be one.

It is some years later now, and much has changed with online gaming and online gaming security. However, it is important to think about what information you give out online, especially about yourself, because of the various impacts it can have. Gaming-lovers like myself put a lot of our time and income into our passion like anyone else, so it’s a worthwhile investment to ensure we are protecting the information we exchange while gaming online.

I still game today and enjoy it just as much as I did when I was 4. You can check out some of my gaming videos on Youtube as Phenomis Gaming and learn more about various privacy issues that might affect you, as well as tips on protecting your privacy from Privacy Shell.

About John Fernandez

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John’s background is in professional gaming and has worked with Microsoft and Xbox, refining the way games are understood and played.

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