April 20, 2009

Protecting Your World of Warcraft Account

I am writing this because over the weekend I have had another friend have their World of Warcraft account compromised. In this case, the attack was done using a Trojan (Win-Trojan/GameHack). World of Warcraft accounts are one of the most profitable things for hackers to steal. As compromises continue to increase, I feel like this is a good time to remind everyone of the steps that should be taken to protect your account if you play World of Warcraft or any other MMORPG. Of course, most of these tips go for everyone else too...

Viruses and Trojans such as GameHack can come from anywhere. One recent source that caused large numbers of accounts to be compromised has been flash-based ads which could bypass the security of any browser and install the virus. Sites about World of Warcraft, especially if they display ads for gold-selling services, should not be trusted. Here are a few steps you should take to protect your World of Warcraft account:

1. The right antivirus software is essential. Kapersky (expensive but worth it) Avast (free) and AVG (free) are among the best. AVG and Kapersky both pre-screen web pages before they are displayed in your browser. I typically recommend users avoid McAfee and Norton - they have become so popular that most viruses are designed to avoid or even disable them.

2. The next priority is to establish a strong perimeter. Your computer should NEVER be connected directly to the Internet. Even if you only have a single computer on your network, invest in a router. Routers add an extra layer of protection through their built-in firewall that prevents external systems from contacting your computer.

3. Next, establish a strong software perimeter. This is done by installing a software firewall on every computer on your network. Unless you share files between computers, each computer should be completely locked down. Even if you do share files or use other network features such as sharing printers, a software firewall can still protect your network. And no, the built in firewall on a Windows or Linux system is not sufficient. You need a firewall that monitors all network activity from every application on your computer. This will often give you the first warning of a virus on your system, and in most cases can prevent a keylogger from sending data back to the attacker. ZoneAlarm is a free, easy to configure firewall that provides comprehensive monitoring. Comodo Firewall is a good, albeit complex free firewall application that is not as user friendly as Zone Alarm, but which provides even more high-level application monitoring.

4. Finally, update everything. It is absolutely essential that you use the update function included with your Operating System. Patch your OS and your web browser as soon as updates become available. Your browser also must be kept up to date along with your antivirus software and firewall. Most of these applications will automatically update themselves.

5. Try alternatives. Firefox is generally considered more secure than Internet Explorer and can provide additional protection against Trojans. Combined with plugins that block scripts and Flash, you can create a browser so secure malware simply can't find a way to attack your system.

6. Use different passwords. Never use the same username/e-mail and password combination for any web-based service as you do for your World of Warcraft account. Login credentials can be stolen from other sites or even read in plain text by attackers and used to compromise your account.

7. Get the Blizzard Authenticator. According to Blizzard, no account using the Blizzard Authenticator has ever been hacked. They have been stolen by friends or relatives, but none have been reported attacked through keylogger means. The Authenticator is relatively inexpensive, and provides a great level of additional security.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to protecting your World of Warcraft account. There is some work involved in securing your system, but once that work is done, you can greatly reduce the risk of compromise.

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