Cheats, Hacks, and Cyberattacks: Threats to the Esports Industry in 2019 and Beyond

Esports competitions continue to gain momentum, making the entities involved more attractive targets for cybercrime.

Cheats, Hacks, and Cyberattacks: Threats to the Esports Industry in 2019 and Beyond Download Cheats, Hacks, and Cyberattacks: Threats to the Esports Industry in 2019 and Beyond

Esports is a fast growing industry with an increasing global audience, a growing pool of professional players, and a burgeoning market that spurs increased funding for competitions year on year. A Syracuse University study projects that esports viewership will match — and even surpass — traditional sports by 2021. Their data estimates that esports viewers will draw more viewers than any other professional sports league in the United States except the National Football League (NFL). Tournament prizes are also on the rise; the total prize money for eSports reached US $150 million in 2018 — a 35% increase from the prize pool in 2017. In 2019, The International 9, the largest Dota 2 tournament of the year, awarded more than US$30 million in prizes, taking the record for having the largest prize pool for a single esports event.

As attention on the games grows and more money is invested in these competitions, we can expect cyberattacks on the esports industry to increase as well. Unscrupulous players will be looking for advantages over their competitors, creating a market for game cheats in the underground. Hackers looking to profit from esports will target vulnerable players, push targeted malware, launch distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against tournaments and more. These highly publicized competitions can also bring out other types of threat actors looking to use esports platforms for political or ideological reasons.

Below we look at some of the biggest esports industry targets and outline some of the threats and risks they should prepare for.

Pro Players

Ransomware : Cybercriminals use malware to lock game profiles and save data then demand a ransom
Data loss
Financial loss
Illegal cheats: Players buy aimbots, wallhacks and more from underground forums
Compromised gameplay
Financial loss
Info stealers: Malware used to steal multiple account credentials (social media, credit accounts and others)
Credit account compromise
PII compromise
Loss of account or in-game valuables

Game companies

Social engineering scams: Accounts stolen from legitimate players
Loss of resources
Damaged reputation
Underground market of accounts: Continued sale of elite accounts
Damaged reputation
Disadvantage to legitimate players
Illegal gambling: Underground betting compromises game and player integrity
Damaged reputation
Used as platform for illegal operations


DDoS attack: Performance issues, connectivity can be ransomed
Loss of game time
Damaged reputation
Potential loss of resources
Exploit game servers: Vulnerable servers targeted and games disrupted
Compromised resources
Damaged reputation
Potential for further damage
Match fixing: Players deliberately lose for money, compromises competition
Loss of resources
Damaged reputation

What is available in the underground market?

Hardware hacks
DDoS services
Score boosting services
Stolen elite accounts

After analyzing esports underground markets and seeing the services and technology available, there is no doubt that the esports industry will be heavily targeted by malicious actors going forward. Luckily, gaming companies and tournament organizers are already aware of their status as targets, and are always on the lookout for new cheating techniques and tools. There are also new security features being developed for the industry, as well as different anti-cheatservices dedicated to keep esports fair. But, for all the targets involved, there needs to be a more comprehensive awareness on the specific threats involved in these competitions. This can help them build better defenses and find more effective security solutions.

To learn more about the esports threat landscape, download the full report: Cheats, Hacks, and Cyberattacks: Threats to the Esports Industry in 2019 and Beyond


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