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Security Issues in eSports and Gaming (and How to Solve Them)

Man wearing headphones playing game on computer

The untrained eye might view an eSports tournament and disregard it as child’s play – little more than teenagers in headsets playing computer games. In fact, this couldn’t be further than the truth. The bourgeoning eSports market was valued at just over $950 million this year and according to Green Man Gaming, tournament audiences have reached more than 443 million across the globe. That’s a following greater than American Football and rugby combined.

Gaming and eSports have taken the world by storm and as the market continues to grow, it’s inevitable that attackers will look to capitalizon vulnerabilities at every stage of the workflowCybercriminals are undoubtedly paying attention to the valuation of the eSports market and they’re looking to make a quick buck by modding games, ripping tournament streams, and stealing valuable intellectual property.  

Stolen Streams and Advertisement Revenue

 

While the concept of watching others play video games may seem foreign to some, there are a surprising number of people that tune into eSports events. Even though these tournaments are free to view online, pirates are still discovering ways to drive their own revenue by restreaming live broadcasts.

“Stream ripping” is one of the largest threats to eSports revenue. Cybercriminals are known to exploit vulnerabilities in the content distribution chain, redirect video streams, and infuse the coverage with their own paid advertising.

Since the vast majority of revenue (roughly 70-80%) for eSports organizations comes from sponsorships and advertising, stream ripping can be catastrophic to business. On top of the millions of dollars they are stealing in ad revenue, cybercriminals are also stealing millions of viewers. Pirates retransmit broadcasts across various social channels to profit from platforms that pay fees based on number of viewers.

While the media and entertainment industry have dealt with pirating for years, eSports is a newer market and does not yet have security measures built in to protect content, data, and IP. Content creators and distributors in the entertainment industry have already implemented trusted solutions to prevent piracy and take quick action against cybercriminals. However, in the eSports market, these infringements are damaging viewership at a critical time. Game studios must boost numbers and viewers to warrant a shift to subscription-based services rather than broadcasting tournaments for free on online platforms. Stolen video streams and stolen viewers are making this evolution all the more difficult.

Now is the time for rights holders and broadcasters to make piracy a priority and implement content protection as a key part of their business strategy.

Gaming Abuse and Automated Cheating

 

During gaming events broadcast to a large global audience, the reputation of developers, studios, and eSports teams are on the line. If players cheat with “modding” techniques like aimbots (which provide automated targeting in shooting titles) or wallhacks (which make walled surfaces transparent or nonsolid), the results could be an exodus of sponsors, spectators, and players alike. Fairness is paramount when it comes to a good game and an entertaining experience, and gamers expect to compete on a level playing field.

Protecting the integrity of a game comes down to application security solutions that don’t disrupt the end user’s experience.

Vulnerable In-App Purchases and Data

 

According to data published by Unity, a gaming tech provider, in-app purchase spending spiked 24% globally in 2020 at the peak of the pandemic.  The average per-user annual in-app spend in the U.S. is $79, with $44 of that spent on gaming. If hackers bypass in-app purchases, this quickly dwindles game studio profits.

While many hackers simply bypass purchases for their own use, others are more malicious and will distribute modified apps to give unpaid access to others as well. Why would a user pay for a game when they could get the same content for free?

Developers and game studios must implement robust, layered mobile app security to protect revenue and intellectual property.

Security That Won’t Impact Game Performance

 

Regardless of your game’s monetization strategy, one thing is certain: you need strong security that won’t impact your game’s performance. Verimatrix’s suite of application security solutions make it incredibly easy to integrate layered protections into mobile applications and games. This frees up development resources and allows your team to focus on what they do best — building quality games — while providing the entire organization with peace of mind that malicious actors cannot copy games illegally or otherwise steal revenue and intellectual property.

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