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How to stay safe when gaming online

How to stay safe when gaming online
(Image credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)

You might not think that it’s necessary to put the same care into protecting yourself online while gaming as you would when filing your taxes or entering your credit card information, but taking simple safety measures, like adding the best VPN to your gaming setup, can reap numerous rewards.

Depending on your game of choice, a surprising amount of personal information can be mined from your account. Your name, address, email, and even your credit card number could be compromised if bad actors can access your account credentials. If you ever game on public Wi-Fi, like in a hotel or airport, it’s especially easy for hackers to spy on your activity and potentially steal your information.

Fortunately, there are several simple steps that you can take to stay safe when gaming online. In this article, we’ll go over a few tips to protect yourself when gaming, along with the benefits of using a gaming VPN.

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Don’t give out your personal information

Sometimes, a fellow gamer looking to access your personal information doesn’t even need to hack your account to do so.

You may not think that it’s a big deal to use your real name on your account when gaming or to chat with fellow players about where in the world you live. But bad actors can use these details to find you on other websites and harass you or worse, impersonate you and steal your identity.

Make sure your account name is free of identifying details, like your first or last name, your location, or your birth year. Always stay on guard when chatting with strangers online.

Choose a secure password

We know to do this in theory, but in practice, it’s just so much easier to use that same password that you use for everything—until, of course, the person who hacks your gaming login can now access your email, bank account, and social media.

You already know all the reasons that you need unique, hard-to-guess passwords for your accounts, so think of this as a friendly reminder to finally upgrade from “password123.”

If remembering hundreds of different passwords for each of your accounts sounds overwhelming, consider using a password manager that will securely store each individual login, so you only have to remember one master password to access them all.

How to stay safe when gaming online

(Image credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)

Use a quality VPN

A simple way to protect your identity and stay safe when gaming online is to use a virtual private network, or VPN.

A VPN reroutes your internet connection through a secure server, masking your identity and keeping your internet service provider—and any hackers—from viewing your online activity.

This is especially important if you game on public Wi-Fi. If you’ve ever pulled out your phone to play a mobile game while waiting for your latte at your favorite coffee shop, you may have inadvertently exposed your private information.

Many public Wi-Fi networks are unencrypted, meaning hackers can easily spy on your activity while you’re connected to them. However, using a VPN will encrypt your connection and keep you safe. The top VPNs have apps for all your devices, so you can stay secure whether you’re using a phone, tablet, or laptop.

And finally, be aware that free VPN services may not offer the speeds or protection you'll need to both stay safe and play games without interruption.

Bottom line

In addition to being careful about what you share and using a strong password, connecting with a VPN is the best way to stay safe online.

Using a VPN comes with other advantages too. If your internet connection has been experiencing a fluctuation in speeds lately, you may be a victim of bandwidth throttling at the hands of your internet service provider (ISP).

If your ISP notices certain activities, like high amounts of gaming or streaming, coming from your IP address, they may respond by intentionally slowing your connection. However, using a fast VPN is an easy way to beat bandwidth throttling by keeping your internet activity hidden from your ISP.

You can also use a VPN to get around geo-blocks, accessing games that aren’t available in your region or accessing region-specific content in the games that you can play. With a VPN, you can choose to reroute your location through a server in a particular country, making the internet (and your online game) appear as it does in that region.

What do we recommend?

As a VPN to use when gaming, no service comes close to ExpressVPN, free or paid. With over 3,000 servers in nearly 100 countries, all the security features necessary, blazing connection speeds, and reliable access to multiple streaming services, ExpressVPN is an excellent choice for those after security with no compromises.

While some users may prefer certain features of other top VPNs, it’s the best overall option for most users – and now Tom’s Guide readers can claim three months absolutely free. Check out our full ExpressVPN review for more info.View Deal

Sarah James

Sarah James is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. She has written about creativity, culture, and technology for brands like TechRadar, Submittable Content For Creatives, The Billfold, Pittsburgh City Paper, The Toast, and more.