Pirated versions of music, movies, software and video games have long been a way for cybercriminals to distribute a wide range of malware including ransomware and keystroke logging malware that can be used to steal data from your computer or phone and make you a victim of identity theft.  The scammers prey upon people wishing to obtain copyright protected material for free that they would otherwise have to pay for.  This can lead to a wide variety of problems, as where pirated versions of Microsoft’s Windows Operating System were particularly vulnerable to the infamous WannaCry ransomware malware.

While many video games such as the popular Fornite game offer free versions of their video games, many other video games are only available legally by paying for the games.  Unfortunately, there are many hackers who will try to find vulnerabilities in the games and create “cracks” which are software or protocols to exploit the vulnerabilities in the game that enable people to play the games for free.  Many such hackers share these “cracks” through websites and discussion forums, such as Google Groups, with others seeking free access to paid games.  However, while some of these hackers indeed do merely provide “cracks” to play these games for free, there have recently been reports of cybercriminals putting malware into the supposed “cracks” that they provide that cause people who download these programs becoming victims of identity theft or ransomware.

TIPS

The way to avoid this problem is pretty simple and ethical at the same time.  Don’t download pirated software of any kind.  You can never be sure when you download a video game “crack,” a movie or a pirated version of some expensive software program whether you are truly getting a usable version of the program or are downloading dangerous malware.  You even should be cautious about buying tremendously discounted games or software from sites that may not be legitimate.  You are better off buying your software from established sources that you know are legitimate.  If you are looking for a discount, you should research the seller extensively before purchasing anything and use your credit card rather than your debit card to provide greater protection in the event of fraud.

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