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Security & privacy

Have a gamer in the house? 5 must-do security steps

Although online gaming can be a fun way to unwind, it also comes with several security issues. Competitive gaming can lead people to sabotage their rivals, so you need to take steps to protect your home network. Threats can range from harassment campaigns and hacking to doxxing and swatting (more on that later).

After hearing this, you may want to stick to light-hearted games that don’t invite competition. Tap or click here for fun sites that let you play the best online games for free. But if you think the rewards are worth the risks, you’ll want to read this guide.

In this article, you’ll learn how to protect yourself in the world of competitive gaming. Unscrupulous gamers may try to hack into your computer and remotely shut you down. Anger the wrong people, and your life could be in danger.

Some people even send SWAT teams to your home

Swatting is an illegal prank that can get you killed. The perpetrators use caller ID spoofing and social engineering techniques to report false crimes to the police. One man lost his life after police fell for one of these hoaxes.

In 2017, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill got into an online argument while playing Call of Duty. They both lost the match and $1.50 in wagers, according to Buzzfeed News. Viner threatened to send a SWAT team to Gaskill’s house in a fit of anger.

Instead of shutting down the conversation, Gaskill goaded Viner on. He intentionally provided an address he didn’t reside at, according to the Chicago Tribune. Viner took the bait — but he didn’t want his name connected to the crime.

Viner then asked a friend named Tyler Barriss to make a false report on his behalf. Barriss agreed and called 911, spinning a fake tale about a high-stakes hostage situation. The SWAT team arrived at the address in Wichita, Kansas. Obviously, Gaskill was nowhere to be found.

Instead, a 28-year-old man named Andrew Finch opened the door. He was unrelated to the argument. A sniper rifle killed him in mere seconds, Yahoo Finance reports.

How this affects you

Online gaming comes with a unique set of security threats. If you’re a gamer or have a gamer in the house, you need to create a defense strategy.

Online games are no longer a harmless, frivolous way to spend time. They’re now a cutthroat industry with a ton of cash on the line. Don’t underestimate the ways other people will try to hurt you and your loved ones to get ahead.

Be like Paula and ask the experts for help

Paula from Summer Fields, Florida, is a fan of the Kim Komando Show. She’s worried about her 15-year-old son, who is starting to make money from gaming and streaming.

Paula has heard about kids breaking into one another’s computers and shutting them down remotely. That’s why her son uses a free VPN. He doesn’t want his IP address exposed.

There’s just one problem: Free VPNs aren’t trustworthy enough to protect your online security. Many will collect private data on users, which defeats the purpose. Tap or click here to find out how VPNs are putting you at risk.

You need to have a VPN protecting your devices that you can trust. We recommend our sponsor, ExpressVPN.

Use the VPN that Kim uses, ExpressVPN. Get 3 months free when you sign up for one year at ExpressVPN.com/Kim.

To make matters worse, her son uses multiple sites that insist on having Paula’s credit card and banking information on hand. That’s why she asked Kim for a few ways to keep her family safe.

It’s a tough spot to be in

On the one hand, Paula wants to support her son’s aspirations. But he’s too young to set up his own bank account. Right now, all the money he makes online goes through an extra account she made.

This makes her afraid of cyberattacks. If someone breaks into their home network to attack her son, they’ll also take down her system. She wants to protect her accounts as well as her son’s. Luckily, Kim came up with a self-defense plan. Here are the steps.

1. Lock down your network computer

If you’re ever in Paula’s situation and want to protect yourself from cyberattacks preemptively, write this down. Actually, it’s good advice for anyone.

Log into your router’s administration console to get a list of all the devices using your network. You may discover some moochers.

Lockout the unauthorized users, enable encryption and turn off any remote management features. This stops hackers from taking over your devices. Tap or click here for our detailed guide to locking down your Wi-Fi and protecting your home.

2. Set up two-factor authentication on all accounts

Paula’s son should create complex passwords and never give out his phone number. He should also enable 2FA on every account:

Kim suggested using the Google Authenticator app. It’s more secure than receiving a 2FA code through text. Tap or click here for our easy guide to authenticator apps.

3. Use a firewall on your router

This can kick hackers out of your home network. Tap or click here for five ways to ensure hackers cannot access your home network and files. Most routers have built-in firewalls, luckily.

However, if you have an older model, you should double-check to ensure you have a firewall. This doesn’t have to take up much time, either. Just use this online tool to check if your router’s firewall and ports are secure.

4. Update your systems

Outdated devices put you at risk. Your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch needs the newest OS with the most current cybersecurity protections. Tap or click here to update your Apple devices.

This also applies if you’re using a Mac or an Android, of course. If you have a smart home system, double-check to see if Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri are updated. Tap or click here for smart home security camera safety tips.

5. Have her son set up his own network

It may sound hard to believe, but it’s possible to create a second network just for the gamer in your home. This way, anything Paula’s son does online will only affect him. Her separate network will be unaffected.

Luckily, CenturyLink has a handy guide full of screenshots to guide you through the process. Here’s how to create a second Wi-Fi network in your home.

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