Get behind the wheel of a supercar, fight terrorists, score the winning goal, defend kingdoms against evil hordes, sink pirate ships, solve mind-bending puzzles, or just be the last one standing… in the world of online gaming, you are spoilt for choice. Age is not a factor, either: there are activities for young and old to enjoy. Online gaming can be exciting and a place to hang out with friends as well as meet new people.
But not all online experiences are alike and some can be troublesome. Unfortunately, there are people online who are not the right fit and can even be dangerous. Fortunately, they are far and few between, but it doesn’t hurt to take a proactive stance towards online safety.
The teams at Bravado Gaming have a lot of experience playing online, both with friends and strangers. They offer some advice on how anyone can start playing safely.
General rules of thumb
There are many types of games online, ranging from serious competitive PC titles to ad-hoc mobile sessions. Each is different and engages with different players online. Most happen on public servers, which means that people you don’t know might join the game. In some cases, you don’t even have direct contact with other players. But more and more titles are adding ways to communicate in the sessions, such as typing in a chat box or using online voice chat.
If there is communication, you should be careful about what you share, said Dillon ‘Lithium’ Charalambous, captain of Bravado Gaming’s Call of Duty team:
“Don’t give out any personal details on a public platform. Even if someone messages you directly, don’t give information out there. You don’t know who they are. Gamers have a long tradition of playing with nicknames or gamertags. Stick to those until you join a group where you get to know the people involved.”
On rare occasions, someone might try to provoke you into engaging with them directly. Just ignore this kind of baiting. If they persist, report them to administrators. But a more urgent concern is what people send to you, said Jana ‘SaltyMonkey’ Du Toit, captain of Bravado Gaming’s all-female team, Bravado Finesse:
“Don’t click on any links sent to you by people who are not your direct, real-life friends. Just like bad links on email and social media, these could be used to plant dangerous software on your system or send you to a dangerous website.”
Scams are becoming more common on gaming platforms. Some are designed to go after online valuables, such as rare items or high-level characters, which are sold illegally once stolen.
But criminal also use game interactions to access other information, such as your banking details. Phishing – a criminal tactic that uses a fake version of a real site, such as a banking login page – is very common. Gamers playing online titles such as Guild Wars and PUBG are frequently targeted with phishing messages and emails. It doesn’t help that many players often use similar emails addresses and passwords for their gaming as for their private and business credentials.
Find safe places to play
As mentioned earlier, most online gaming will happen on public servers. This means the game can be accessed by people other than those you know. The alternative is a private server or to play in private games that are protected by passwords.
“Playing public games is not a bad thing and even necessary if you want to take part in ranked matches,” said Bravado Gaming’s CEO, Andreas Hadjipaschali, referring to matches that raise your public rank for a game. “Good public game servers are policed by administrators and reporting tools. If someone bothers you or if something concerns you, contact one of the administrators. You can also report the person, though don’t do this for frivolous things or you could be marked as an abuser of the system.”
Most online games will connect to public servers that are hosted by the game’s developers or publishers – the people who build and sell the game. But some games allow third parties to create their own servers. Again the same rules apply: don’t share personal information and do engage with administrators if there are problems. If the problems don’t go away, change to a different server.
Gamers looking to play competitively will want to find servers that cater to that. These will often be hosted and supported by eSports teams and enthusiasts. To find those, plug into the relevant communities, said Wasim ‘Wass’ Rajah, captain of Bravado Gaming’s FIFA team:
“The main thing here is getting yourself onto social media. Once you are on there, the links open up. There are certain organizations from who, if you follow them, you’ll get word of most tournaments, like ACGL, Zombiegamer, Mettlestate and VS gaming.”
You can also follow Bravado’s social media accounts and women can reach out to the all-ladies team Bravado Finesse for a bit of feminine support and guidance.
Going online as a minor
If you are still very young – or you are concerned about your kids going online, there are a few extra precautions you can take. Though there are people online who prey on younger gamers, they are thankfully an extreme minority. Still, the above rules of careful communications are more important than ever.
As a parent, you should accept that online gaming is as part of a player’s world as being part of a sports team. So it is better to arm your child with the right skills, as well as keep open channels with them, said SaltMonkey:
“Urge your child to have an open and honest relationship with you in terms of their gaming. They should know that it is okay to speak to you about what is happening in the virtual world and that you won’t get mad. Therefore, be accepting of gaming and try to meet them halfway.”
It should also be a definite rule that only adults are allowed to install games and other software on the machine used for games. There is a real risk of dangerous software being sent through bad links, some masked as games. This is particularly dangerous on mobile devices, where it is not hard to disable safety measures and install unauthorised apps.
But even official apps and in-game purchases can be a danger – to your credit card! Even though some services have put measures in place to limit such activities, it’s prudent to keep an eye on credit card transactions. If a minor needs to make an online purchase, an adult should do it for them.
Finally, always set the profiles of young players to private, stopping anyone unauthorised from looking at their details. Even seemingly innocuous tidbits, such as the child’s age and gender, can be used against them. Staying anonymous is good.
Online gaming is a lot of fun. It’s a way to participate, to make friends, build confidence and blow off steam. Unlike the caricature of lone spotty teens hiding in basements, online gamers draw from every walk of life. That can spell danger. But take the right steps, keep the right attitude, and everyone can have a safe online experience.
Stop being creepy! An essential guide for digital marketers
Advertising and marketing is becoming increasingly creepy as personalisation strategies lose the plot, writes JOAN OSTERLOH, authorised Forrester Research Partner for South Africa.
Marketers need to be aware of the “creep factor” when deploying strategies of personalisation and individualisation in their marketing efforts, Forrester’s Brendan Witcher, VP and principal analyst serving eBusiness and channel strategy professionals, warned as early as December 2017.
Six months later, Forrester senior analyst Susan Bidel was even more direct in her message: “Marketers, you need to take control of your advertising strategies and adtech stacks now to better address today’s consumers.” She cautioned that those who didn’t, were at a high risk of annoying and creeping out the very customers needed for business growth.
In its latest research, “Marketers Versus Customers: Opposing Forces Erupt” Forrester now finds that even though marketers set out with the best intentions to implement customer-obsessed marketing and customer experience strategies, they still end up alienating and ‘creeping out’ customers, resulting in lost loyalty.
Marketers use personalisation to make their marketing more relevant and to help it stand out, Forrester says in a blog on the study. The irony is that with all the customer data that marketers use to personalise, the one thing they seem to have forgotten to find out from consumers is whether they even want personalised communication at all, the firm writes. Combined with identity resolution and increased automation, companies have created adtech and martech stacks that are creeping people out. We think our phones are listening to us. And then Facebook admits it is doing this. So, what’s gone wrong?
The report by Melissa Parrish, Forrester’s VP and group director serving marketing professionals, highlights that marketers are ignoring their customers’ desire for anonymity, by assuming that they all want personalised experiences. They are foregoing the authenticity of their own brands by “giving lip service to brand values they think resonate with customers.” There’s an overt focus on martech at the expense of human creativity. Lastly, they’re profiling customers on precarious connections and getting it wrong, sometimes with harmful and even traumatic results, she explains.
The solution is to return to true customer-centricity by going back to basics by looking at the following, Parrish writes in the report:
- Remember that customers are different. Here it’s not about customer segments or personas, but rather the extent to which they expect you to know them. Treat customers and prospects differently – e.g. prospects “want value, not a background check”.
- Customers are tired of lookalike ads and direct mail that is poorly personalised, trying to get them to buy things for which they’re not even in the market. Choose your target audience, focus on them, and then let go of the others.
- Programmatic marketing has its upsides and downsides. Avoid the two extremes of advertising at scale across multiple channels on the one hand and limiting advertising to channels where everyone seems to be at once, such as Facebook, on the other. Instead, target your audience with responsible content and choose platforms on which you can reach them online and offline.
- Consider whether you should be using cookie, key-stroke and audience data at all for your brand. Intent-based target marketing through search optimization might be a smarter choice.
- Don’t assume that personalisation will make customer experiences more relevant. Rather interview your customers and test different variations of personalised content to find the right balance between information, recommendations, simplicity and empathy.
- Don’t ignore the 20% who don’t want any personalisation at all – use your customer insights data to identify them, and then meet their expectation of no personalisation.
Parrish offers important recommendations for the winning marketers of the future. Since the success of marketing is measured by the bottom line of revenue generation, truly customer-obsessed marketers need KPIs that are “fine-tuned” to understand what customers value, not what’s valuable to the brand, she writes. What customers want and value should be defined in terms of four dimensions along the axes of functional-experiential, and economic-symbolic. Then, measure the dimensions along the entire customer life cycle, she explains. What this requires is the following:
Firstly, marketing and Customer Experience (CX) teams need to unify and leverage one another’s unique skills to deliver best-in-class customer experiences that drive loyalty, customer retention and growth. Truly customer-obsessed brands will bring CX and marketing together to harness the best that both have to offer.
Secondly, brands need to rebuild trust. As consumers become more privacy-savvy, they will become more selective about the brands with which they are willing to share their data. Marketers need to develop ‘Privacy Personas’ as a new marketing segment to ensure that they deliver experiences their customers are comfortable with.
Thirdly, refocus on creative excellence. In Parrish’s words “new prospecting strategies will center on great creative making an emotional impact and contextual targeting driving relevance.”
Lastly marketers need to find ways to extend customer obsession throughout the enterprise. Employees need to be empowered to deliver on the brand promise, which must align to and be in harmony with CX. The companies that thrive will be those whose CX truly reflects brand values, Parrish concludes.
Sources: “Marketers Versus Customers: Opposing Forces Erupt” 18 Sept 2019. By Melissa Parrish with Sharyn Leaver, Brigitte Majewski, Caroline Robertson, and Stephanie Liu.
Which should you use: PIN or Password?
By CHAD HAMMOND, a digital security expert at NordPass
As users of this digital age, we have many different choices. You can enable or disable web cookies, depending on how much information you want a website to gather about you. You can use encrypted services or unencrypted ones, depending on how much you’re concerned about your privacy and security.
You can also use a PIN (Personal Identification Number) or password to secure your digital devices or online accounts. However, in this particular case, the choice for most of us is not as straightforward as it seems.
The other day I also had the very same discussion among my friends with three different sides of opinion. One side was backing PINs and claiming that they are safer than passwords. Others couldn’t believe that PINs made up of four, six, or eight digits can be more reliable than long and complex passwords. And the third group was claiming that both PIN and password serve the same purpose of identification and are safe to use. All sides had valuable insights, but we couldn’t reach an agreement. Sparked by this discussion, I decided to look deeper into this topic and look for the truth.
When should you use a PIN?
PIN stands for a Personal Information Number and is used the same as a password to prove that you have the right to access your data. A PIN usually consists of a string of four to eight numbers, and it was first introduced in the 1960s together with cash machines (ATMs). The obvious drawback is that a PIN is limited to 0-9 numerical digits. A PIN made up of four numbers offers 10,000 possible combinations. That may seem like an easy nut to crack, but it’s not as straightforward.
PINs are normally used on touchscreen devices and always require manual data entry. An automated brute-force attack may not work as most of the systems that use a PIN also specify maximum attempts count before disabling the device.
For example, if your device limits PIN entry to six attempts, there is a 0.06% chance that someone will be lucky enough to crack the four-digit code. Of course, if your PIN is ‘0000’ or ‘1234,’ the probability of being hacked increases massively.
When should you use a password?
A good password is a combination of numerical digits, upper- and lowercase letters, and various special characters. It could also be a phrase made up of words with the same requirements. Like the PIN, the password concept first appeared in the early 1960s and has been used ever since. A 10-character password has 59,873,693,923,837,900,000 different variations, and most of you are probably thinking you know which of the two is more secure. However, it’s not all about mathematics.
Passwords are used online or for devices like computers, which usually don’t have any limits on failed attempts. That’s why passwords can be compromised with the help of an automated brute-force attack. Of course, not all attacks are practical, as most of them would take years to crack a strong password. Buthacking technologies are evolving fast, making such attacks more sophisticated and successful.
Password vs. PIN: the verdict
Going back to the discussion that I had with my friends, we can safely say that all the opinions were correct in one way or another. The answer to this question depends on where you use your PIN or password.
If you want to unlock your touchscreen device, the safest and easiest way is to use a PIN because of the manual entry and the attempt limit. When it comes to online accounts or computers, passwords are much safer due to the simple math of available combinations.
Also, you can enable multi-factor authentication (2FA) in most online accounts . The 2FA adds another layer of safety, minimizing the risks of automated brute-force attacks. Even if someone manages to get your strong password, they won’t be able to access your account, as the second step of verification will stop them.