MWC 2019: Why 5G + Fortnite = a win-win for criminals

So apparently, the company behind Fortnite has so much cash that it’s forming a $100 million prize fund for upcoming competitions. It’s hardly surprising since its creators, Epic Games, confirmed that by the end of November 2018, 200 million players had registered accounts across PCs, gaming consoles and on mobile. The Android app alone was downloaded 15 million times within the first three weeks of its release.

Staggeringly though, this remains a ‘free’ game and while the freemium model is hardly new in the world of mobile apps – just consider the returns Supercell got with Clash of Clans – it does provide an opportunity for criminals to also get their share. Unsurprisingly the promise of achieving an advantage is particularly attractive since top gamers can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Combined with alternative delivery methods such as the use of an invitation-only beta version of Fortnite distributed in August 2018, we saw the growth in promises of invitations, and over-eager YouTubers with links to apps that were not what they appeared. From an InfoSec perspective this is hardly surprising, but the reality is that we are dealing with an audience demonstrating no due diligence in their pursuit of access to the latest games.

While Fortnite is undoubtedly a phenomenon, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are already challengers nipping at its heels. PUBG Mobile, for example, is played by 30 million people daily, while there are plans for EA’s Apex Legends to move over to mobile, having acquired 10 million online players in its first 72 hours.

The growing appetite for mobile gaming will only increase further this year with the arrival of 5G networks and its promise of super-fast speeds and ultra-low latency. And of course, as the number of mobile gamers continues to grow, so too will the opportunity for criminals to exploit them.

75 percent of gamers claimed security was the element that most concerned them about the future of gaming. Such concerns are hardly surprising since we found almost two thirds of gamers have or know someone who has been directly affected by a cyberattack, with the average gamer experiencing around five attacks. However, the likelihood is that these concerns are put to one side when a link to a third-party app store offers a beta version to the latest gaming phenomenon.

Analysts suggest that 2018 was a tipping point for mobile gaming, when cost, convenience and a social element saw the channel become bigger than console and PC gaming combined. Unfortunately, this means opportunistic criminals now have their eyes on a huge and growing number of potential victims.

Join us at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where we’ll be demoing McAfee Gamer Security, and revealing how criminals are cashing in on Fortnite and its unorthodox distribution method.

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