A research report from Kaspersky Lab found that over half of people (53%) regularly game online, yet gamers are frequently leaving their accounts vulnerable to cybercriminals through weak password protection and other poor security practices. Improperly securing accounts puts gamers’ valuable progress, personal data and even income at risk, while also creating a lucrative market for cybercriminals to sell compromised gaming credentials on the black market.

The global gaming audience, led by online platforms such as Steam, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, is now estimated to be over 2.2 billion people and is continuing to grow. This large user base makes the gaming industry a clear target for cybercriminals who are looking to disrupt online operations and gain access to data such as passwords and bank account information, as demonstrated by cyberattacks on the Xbox and PlayStation platforms.

According to the Kaspersky Lab research, 64 percent of people 25 to 34 years old regularly game online, rising to 67 percent for people aged 16 to 24. Gaming has become a major part of many people’s lives – for entertainment, socialization, or even as a source of income. Therefore, cyberattacks affecting gaming accounts can have a major impact on victims, who may lose access to their favorite games (temporarily or permanently), face deletion of their profiles or game progress, or have their income or banking information compromised.

Kaspersky Lab surveyed people who have experienced a successful or attempted cyberattack on one of their online accounts, and found that 16 percent of people identified their gaming accounts as the target. The research also found that more than half of people (55%) stated that they would not be able to quickly restore their gaming account details if lost, demonstrating the potentially distressing impact of a compromised gaming account.

Despite these threats, Kaspersky Lab found that gamers often demonstrate poor security practices. The research showed that over a quarter of people (27%) regularly use a smartphone for online gaming, which often holds other sensitive personal information that could be impacted if a gaming account is compromised. Additionally, 23 percentf people use public Wi-Fi to log into gaming accounts and more than half (56%) say they do not take any additional security precautions when using public networks. With just five percent of people identifying gaming profiles as one of their accounts requiring the strongest passwords, it is clear that gamers are not taking the necessary precautions to secure their accounts.

Furthermore, as many online profiles today are connected, victims of a breached gaming account can end up subsequently losing access to several important accounts, such as email and social media. While this can be stressful for leisurely gamers, professional gamers can be even more seriously impacted, potentially losing out on valuable income as they attempt to recover their data.

“With a treasure trove of personal information now available online, cybercriminals have more opportunities than ever to get their hands on user’s private data, which they can then sell on the digital black market,” said Andrei Mochola, head of consumer business at Kaspersky Lab. “Online gamers – both amateur and professional – are understandably concerned about having their accounts hacked, or being locked out of their accounts by forgetting their passwords. However, only by taking appropriate precautions and using strong, unique passwords will users be confident that their valuable accounts are protected and that all their efforts have not gone to waste.”

To help protect gamers’ online accounts, many of Kaspersky Lab’s consumer products include features to help users keep their credentials safe, such as the Kaspersky Password Manager in Kaspersky Security Cloud. This feature stores all user passwords in a secure digital vault and provides easy access from PCs, Macs and smartphones. An automatic password generator creates strong and resilient passwords, so users only have to remember one master password to access all of their online accounts.