If your console if behaving oddly you might suspect it has a virus. But can game consoles get viruses – and how would you know?
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We all know about the different dangers that lurk on the internet. We all received warnings about visiting shady sites or clicking suspicious links. Malware and other viruses are a well-known threat to internet surfing. While we commonly think of vulnerable devices like computers or smartphones, we often forget these aren’t the only things accessing the web.
Modern gaming consoles have online services we use. Whether we use the services to play with friends or use an internet browser, they are online. Technically, anything online can fall victim to a virus. Even though our online consoles are susceptible to these digital threats, they are different from traditional computer viruses.
The short answer is, yes, game consoles are vulnerable. Anything that accesses the internet has the potential to encounter malicious software. However, the viruses that attack your computer are not the same viruses that affect your console.
Viruses require coding that is compatible with the operating system (OS). Each gaming console has its own specific OS. In other words, the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One/ Series X, and PlayStation 4/5 all run on different operating systems.
If a hacker were to target consoles, they would need to write specific code for each console. There are a few different viruses that can infect your console if you are not careful. Of course, these viruses are relatively rare compared to the sheer number of malicious software your computer encounters.
Making viruses for consoles is just not profitable. Hackers tend to want to infect your devices so that they can get something from you. Think of all the sensitive information you upload online (your banking information, contact, social security number, ID, etc.). If they can’t get any saved data from your computer, they may try to do things like creating a program to track your keystrokes or coerce you into giving over your information.
For hackers to maximize their profits, they need to try to get as many people to download their program as possible. To enhance their reach, it would make sense to target systems that many people use regularly. Targeting computer operating systems just makes more sense.
Game consoles may be popular, but their audience cannot compare to the sheer number of people than own and use computers regularly. There is already a significant discrepancy between computer systems partly due to popularity (Macs are less vulnerable to malware as there are more Windows computers).
Even if we ignore the number of users per device, game consoles make less sense as a platform to target. Typically, you aren’t typing in all that sensitive information nearly as much as you would with your phone or computer. Buying digital games does not compare to the amount of online shopping and banking someone does from their laptop.
Beyond that, consoles never really need any personal information beyond some payment details. If a hacker is looking to steal your identity or get their hands on social security cards, it makes sense for them to target other platforms. This doesn’t mean console viruses never happen. Malicious software targeting gaming consoles is possible, but you will likely never encounter them.
The chances that a hacker would direct time and resources to create a virus for platform with limited returns is slim to none. This does not mean that there is no way to get scammed through gaming consoles. There are other ways in which malicious individuals use consoles as a platform to exploit you.
Viruses are not the only way scammers obtain your sensitive information. Catfishing schemes are a common ploy on gaming platforms, especially in forums. People try to scam people through deceitful links and phishing techniques. Remember to always practice internet safety, even when playing online games.
Internet safety is the key to keeping any device healthy and virus-free. Consider following these basic tips:
Never accept strange friend requests. Bots are not uncommon in online gaming forums. Anyone using the PlayStation Network probably encountered a friend request from an obviously fake account. Do not add people you do not know on any social media site. Never click suspicious links. If you do decide to open their messages, never click on links a stranger sends you. These may contain viruses. Don’t give personal information to people online. While this does not have much to do with viruses themselves, this is important, basic internet safety. Never give strangers your last name, address, or other sensitive information. Don’t share log-in details. This is especially true for any log-in information. Always keep your log-in details private – even from your friends. Your details of everything, from your bank information to your Nintendo Online account, should be private. Buyers beware. Never trust online sellers who claim they need your log-in information to give you online rewards. These scams coax dedicated players into handing over their accounts. Even if you can retrieve the account again, later on, they sometimes rob accounts of in-game rewards to later sell for real money. Keep your system updated. The custom operating systems of a console are not defenseless. Even though the potential threat is at a minimum, gaming systems do have security measures. Although there are no reports of devastating viruses, it’s still a wise idea to keep your account updated in case they advance any security measures.
Although it is possible for your console to get a virus, this is not something you need to worry about. It takes a lot of time and effort for a hacker to program an effective virus.
Consequently, it makes more sense to target other devices besides gaming consoles. This principle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful when using online consoles. Dangers lurk in all corners of the internet, and the online gaming community is no exception.
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