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Botnet for hire services have sprung up on the back of such illicit activities.

"Dedicated Botnet groups will charge a fee for desperate gamers to set up a botnet and booter for them," Boyd told El Reg. "Depending on the game, many will award you the win should the host drop out, or give you a similar advantage. You can also force the game to make you the host via different method, which has other advantages."

Such attacks are explained in greater depth in a blog posting by Boyd here.

Hacking in the world of Xbox Live can also adopt a social networking guise.

"There are friend request spam tools which flood your Xbox dashboard with unending friend requests. After effects can range from crashes, when trying to block these attacks, to general slowdown on your network," Boyd added.

A video of a presentation given by Boyd at last October's SecTor.ca conference, entitled Game Over Man, Gamers under Fire., can be found here. A related presentation can be found here.

Sunbelt added to this content with guide to best practice, published on Thursday.

Boyd suggests a number of top tips to avoid getting pwned while playing shoot-em-ups or other online games, that are well worth repeating.

  • Never give someone your login details in exchange for anything.
  • Avoid game cheats and other items sold on Youtube videos. This is a risk because many cheat sellers are malicious.
  • Remove credit card details from accounts registered with gaming companies. Avoid signing up for automatic renewal.
  • Use pre-paid cards to pay for accounts, where possible, rather than personal debit or credit cards.
  • Try to use aliases - not your real name - when you sign up for online gaming accounts.

Boyd's extensive research doesn't even touch on the growing trade in Trojans designed to steal login credentials for online games such as World of Warcraft and many others. Such strains of malware most often crop in in attacks in the far East but are certainly not restricted to that area and far from limited to WoW. ®

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