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Malware has a terrible new way to get to your computer

You’ve heard of malware spreading through spammy emails and mysterious links on strange websites. But now there’s a new avenue of attack for bad actors to take — and it’s via Minecraft. Yes, you read it correctly. The open-world building game loved by seven-year-olds around the globe is quickly becoming a favorite method for spreading malware.

As reported by Bleeping Computer, Kaspersky Labs researched the phenomena from July 2021 until July 2022, and it found that in-game malware accounted for a significant amount of the malware that was spread in that time. Although there was a 30% drop in malware attacks in that year when compared to 2020, the amount of gaming-related malware actually increased. Minecraft on PC was the preferred vector.

A villager looks at a sunset.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In-game economies have grown in popularity as a way for developers to make money, with everything from new skins to enhanced weapons and tools available. Minecraft has an entire ecosystem of user-made goodies and mods available for download, and there are many off-platform sites where users can find free stuff to use in-game. Many kids cannot resist the lure of free skins and loot boxes for download, and this is where the malware hides.

Before we all dump our beloved Minecraft and jump over to Roblox, be warned that many other games are also platforms used to spread malware, according to Kaspersky. FIFA was the second-most used game after Minecraft, with 11% of in-game malware. Roblox, Far Cry, and the Call of Duty franchise also had significant amounts of malware attached to off-platform mods and downloads.

Computer games weren’t the only targets for malware. Mobile games had threats too. Grand Theft Auto, PUBG Mobile, and Roblox were all compromised, but once again, Minecraft led the pack with 40% of the mobile gaming malware threats. Minecraft remains a favorite for threat actors precisely because it is one of the most popular games out there.

Most of the malware Kaspersky found were downloaders, accounting for nearly 89% of all the malware. Adware, Trojans, and exploits made up a smaller share. Most of the downloaders were info-stealers and cryptocurrency miners.

You can avoid these pitfalls by only downloading mods and skins from trusted in-game stores. Downloads from off-platform websites and forums can introduce nasty malware to your device, which you may not realize is there until it’s too late. Also, if any developer tells you to turn off antivirus protection to make their mod work, run fast.

More importantly, keep a good eye on your child when they’re playing Minecraft or Roblox. You just never know when a cool new world with a real fire-breathing T-Rex is going to tempt them into downloading something onto your computer.

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Nathan Drescher
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nathan Drescher is a freelance journalist and writer from Ottawa, Canada. He's been writing about technology from around the…
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