App shielding

Stay ahead of the game: 5 mobile gaming security threats every developer should be aware of

By Tana Blegen February 21, 2023 11:01 am

Mobile games have become a breeding ground for hackers. As most mobile games rely on in-app purchases and in-app advertisements, and players increasingly buy or create cheats, game developers need to implement strong security measures to keep games safe, fair, and profitable.  Here are five mobile gaming security threats every developer should address in 2023: […]

Mobile games have become a breeding ground for hackers. As most mobile games rely on in-app purchases and in-app advertisements, and players increasingly buy or create cheats, game developers need to implement strong security measures to keep games safe, fair, and profitable. 

Here are five mobile gaming security threats every developer should address in 2023:

  • Cheating
  • In-app purchase bypassing
  • Bots
  • Game cloning and repackaging
  • Data and asset theft

Cheating

Cheating in mobile gaming is on the rise, with some surveys reporting that up to 59% of players believe that other players cheating affects their gaming experience negatively. That’s almost 2 in 3! 

Cheaters can exploit vulnerabilities in the game’s code, reverse engineer the game, and alter the game’s logic to gain an unfair advantage. This can also uncover flaws that they can manipulate to: 

  • Gain unauthorised access to sensitive information
  • Manipulate the game’s data to cause harm to other players
  • Compromise the integrity of the game

Ultimately, cheating may lead to loss of trust and revenue for the game developer. A variety of security features can protect your mobile game from cheating threats. These include integrity verification, anti-debugging, hook detection, jailbreak/root detection, and emulator detection.

In-app purchase bypassing

While the vast majority of mobile games rely on in-app purchases for their revenue, some of these systems have serious flaws. These issues allow hackers to make false purchases or gain access to free stuff. 

Hackers can easily bypass in-app purchases by using an emulator for a game and creating a patch. Just as concerning, emulators and other tools like debuggers may also enable hackers to create copycat games and even transform games into malware-carrying trojans.  

In-app purchase bypassing is a serious threat as it leads to lost revenue. It also harms the integrity of the game and may reduce player engagement. To ensure the security of an in-app purchase system, you can use security measures such as server-side validation, encryption, and anti-tampering to detect any modifications to code or data.

Bots

According to a survey from mobile measurement company Adjust, 41% of mobile gamers have paid for a bot to help them win. 63% of the respondents also said that the prevalence of bots negatively affects their gaming experience.

As bots can automate gaming activities and enable players to level up faster and increase the likelihood of winning, they can be a significant problem in multiplayer games. Bots can also exploit in-app purchase systems, leading to possible revenue losses and loss of trust in the game.

Code obfuscation, encryption, and anti-debugging make it harder for bots to automate gameplay. Additionally, runtime protection can detect suspicious patterns or memory modifications and block bots while the game is running.

Game cloning and repackaging

Cloned games crop up regularly, usually around the release of widely successful games. Cloning has been around for decades, but the cloning of high-profile games like Wordle and Unpacking has put mobile game cloning back under the microscope.

Cloned or repackaged games pose a security threat because they enable hackers to exploit popular titles for financial gains. The clones may also contain malware or other malicious code that can access personal data such as login credentials and financial information. Developers should address this threat and take steps to secure their games. This includes implementing measures such as encryption and robust code protection to protect games from code alterations or injection attacks.

Data and asset theft

Mobile games often provide in-game currency and wallets and collect large amounts of personal and sensitive data. This makes them a prime target for hackers seeking to steal game assets or personally identifiable information (PII). To protect player data and maintain their trust, developers should securely store assets locally on end-user devices in a secure and encrypted manner to prevent theft.

A comprehensive app shielding solution like Promon SHIELD™ prevents tampering, cheating, and cloning, keeps app data and assets safe, and protects your brand. Specifically, Promon SHIELD™ offers security mechanisms such as:

  • Code obfuscation, anti-debugging, and detection and blocking of foreign code injection, making games less prone to reverse engineering 
  • Runtime monitoring and protection against bots and in-app purchase bypassing
  • Secure Local Storage, which encrypts and stores assets locally on an end-user device, including PII and API keys 
  • Detection and blocking of cloning and repackaging attempts
  • Detection and blocking of cheating and tampering attempts in real time