The Most Malware-Infected Games in 2022 and How to Protect Yourself

Joystick with malware flag and alert icon on a table
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The Most Malware-Infected Games: A Quick List

Want to know what the most infected games are? According to data from Kaspersky, the following games on PC were the most malware-infected games of the past year (2021):

  1. Minecraft
  2. The Sims 4
  3. PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds)
  4. Fortnite
  5. GTA V (Grand Theft Auto 5)
  6. Counter-Strike GO
  7. Rocket League
  8. League of Legends
  9. FIFA 21
  10. Need for Speed Heat

Fortunately, you can protect yourself from malware by following a few simple tips, like getting a good antivirus program and using a VPN for gaming. Our favorite VPN, ExpressVPN offers some of the fastest VPN connections around so that you can frag your enemies without interruption.

Check out the full article below for tips on how to protect yourself from malware and what to do if you’re infected with malware.

For some people, there’s hardly anything more relaxing and fun than firing up a game to pass the time. However, some PC and mobile games carry a much greater risk to your personal and online security due to hackers, or just plain lax security from developers.

Downloading the wrong file or app could see your device infected with malware (malicious software) that’s out to steal your data. In fact, there have been many cases where player data has been misused or stolen from companies.

In this article, we talk all about the risks of malware-infected games, in addition to the most malware-infected games on both desktop and mobile. We’ll also show you how to protect yourself from malware that could be lurking inside that game you’ve got your eye on.

Can You Even Get Malware From Games?

The answer to this is a resounding “yes.” Some games can contain malware, whether that’s the result of hackers injecting malicious code into a legitimate game or creating a fake app that is simply a virus. In most cases, hackers generally upload infected files on torrent sites or share them through other illegitimate means.

For PC gamers, this means that you’re generally safe if you’re using a popular games platform like GOG, Steam, or HumbleBundle.

However, even mobile games downloaded from the Google Play Store, for example, can be infected with malware. In November 2021, Google removed seven compromised apps from its store, which had a collective 70,000+ downloads.

While Apple’s stringent development process and App Store requirements keep most iOS devices secure, that’s not to say that iOS users are completely safe from mobile malware.

Earlier in 2021, a major contributing developer to Apple’s services, Kosta Eleftheriou, shared his concerns about several applications available on the App Store.

Given that no system is entirely safe, you need to know what to look out for so that you don’t fall victim to malicious software. Owing to their popularity, some games have become a favorite for malicious actors. Here’s our list of the most malware-infected PC games in 2022.

The 10 Most Malware-Infected PC Games

A study conducted by Atlas VPN showed the most malware-infected games on PC, as shown in the infographic below. The study used data from the Kaspersky Security Network, a company providing cybersecurity software, which gathered data from internet users who subscribe to their products. Below, you’ll find the 10 most malware-infected PC games that could pose a real threat to your online security.

Table showing top 10 pc games used as cover up for distributing unwanted applications and malware

1. Minecraft

Screenshot of Minecraft website page with logo in the corner

  • Infections detected (PC): 3,010,981
  • Users affected (PC): 184,887

Since its release in 2011, Minecraft has been a huge hit with gamers of all ages, especially kids. This open-world sandbox game has gone on to be released across multiple platforms, including PC, consoles, and smartphones.

It’s no surprise that Atlas VPN has highlighted how between July 2020 and July 2021,184,887 desktop devices were affected by malware hidden in Minecraft downloads, which affected up to 50,664 users. This puts it firmly at the top of our list of the most malware-infected games of the past year.

It’s worth noting that these issues aren’t related to official copies of Minecraft bought from reputable online or brick-and-mortar stores. Due to its popularity, Minecraft is a heavily modded (modified) game, which means that players can download new content that’s created by fans of the game.

Since mods are unofficial and mostly unregulated, they can be loaded with undesirable and outright dangerous software.

2. The Sims 4

Screenshot of Sims4 website page with logo in the corner

  • Infections detected (PC): 1,266,804
  • Users affected (PC): 43,252

There were over one million malware detections in The Sims 4 game files on PC, with around 43,000+ users impacted. Again, game mods are largely to blame here, as developers can create customized pieces of homeware for players to download and add to their collections.

One example includes the “Crackonosh” malware, which has affected other games too, including Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, and NBA 2K19 — some of the most popular PC games around.

This particularly nasty malware harnesses victims’ processing power to mine cryptocurrency. Even if your personal details aren’t harvested, you could see a frightening increase in your electricity bill and degradation of your PC components due to the crypto mining process and the stress it places on hardware.

3. PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds)

Screenshot of PUBG website page with logo in the corner

  • Infections detected (PC): 484,528
  • Users affected (PC): 26,724

PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds) was a huge hit when it was first released, and it is often regarded as the game that started the battle royale craze. As an open-world survival game, you compete with countless other players to loot resources and take down the competition.

Unfortunately, its popularity also made it a primary target for malware developers. While not as impacted as Minecraft or The Sims 4, more than 25,000 PC users were affected by malware hidden in PUBG files.

For example in 2018, ransomware known aptly as “PUBG Ransomware” was discovered on infected machines. This malicious software would encrypt a victim’s files to render them inaccessible until the victim bowed down to the hacker’s demands — hence the name, “Ransomware.” Victims are quite literally held to ransom.

Often, demands associated with ransomware are extortionate; hackers commonly request huge sums of money to release the captive devices. However, the PUBG Ransomware had one simple request: victims were forced to play PUBG to unlock their machine!

While this ransomware was thought to have been a simple, albeit malicious joke, ransomware attacks are serious, as the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) can attest.

4. Fortnite

Screenshot of EpicGames, Fortnite website page

Fortnite is another game that has become immensely popular, which has also made it a target for hackers. During its early days, Fortnite scammers managed to steal users’ data by disguising a malware file as a cheating tool.

Around 1,200 users downloaded the file, which delivered a trojan virus that steals data and sends it to a remote server. This data included browsing history, games libraries, and cryptocurrency wallet information.

In total, the report from Atlas VPN indicates that around 14,702 Fortnite users fell victim to malware. One more recent virus associated with Fortnite came from Kaspersky, who revealed that Fortnite players could be hit by a new trojan.

Known as BloodyStealer, this malware was designed to — that’s right — steal even more user data. Specifically, it was players’ gaming libraries at risk here, with hackers selling stolen login credentials on the internet.

5. GTA V (Grand Theft Auto 5)

Screenshot of RockstarGames GTA V website page

Grand Theft Auto V came out in 2013, with Grand Theft Auto Online following shortly afterward. So popular was this game, that the company behind it — Rockstar — has left fans waiting for GTA 6 for almost a decade. Only recently did they confirm that a new GTA was in the making, in 2022!

However, its popularity is why the game has seen around 14,261 users infected with malware, according to AtlasVPN’s report.

Users playing on desktop PCs are particularly at risk, with many of the same viruses we’ve mentioned above affecting GTA V players too. This includes the Cracknosh malware that also affected Sims 4 players and the BloodyStealer malware that affected Fortnite players in droves.

Of course, there are other games that have been heavily targeted by malicious actors too. Apart from the top 5 malware-infected games listed above, you need to be cautious about others too.

Below, we’ve highlighted the remaining 10 most malware-infected games on PC, including the number of virus detections and the number of users impacted:

NumberTitleInfections DetectedNumber of Users Affected
6Counter-Strike GO327,97613,625
7Rocket League37,7514,631
8League of Legends56,7104,166
9FIFA 21N/A3,109
10Need for Speed Heat27,7862,069

The 5 Most Malware-Infected Games on Mobile

Even mobile apps can be infected by malicious software. The data from Kaspersky shows how up to 50,644 mobile users tried to download a total of more than 10,000 files during the period of the study. These malicious apps were disguised as the top 10 most-played games, which resulted in around 332,570 virus detections.

Much like with PC games, Minecraft was a major target, and to nobody’s surprise, ranks number one as the most malware-infected game on mobile, with more than three million virus detections. In total, over 44,000 mobile gamers were impacted by malware disguised or hidden within Minecraft files.

Below, we’ve included a list of the 5 most malware-infected mobile games:

  • No. 1: Minecraft
  • No. 2: Among US
  • No. 3: PUBG Mobile
  • No. 4: Free Fire
  • No. 5: Brawl Stars

How to Stay Safe While Gaming

Infographic showing how to stay safe while gaming

By now, you’re probably wondering how to stay safe while gaming and protect yourself against malware. Below, you’ll find our top tips for securing your device and avoiding malware when downloading your favorite games.

Create a secure password and never share it with anyone

One of the most simple ways to improve your online security is to create a secure password and never share it with anyone online. For starters, avoid passwords such as “password” or “qwerty123.

You might come across other players trying to entice you to upgrade your character or give you a new cosmetic item in-game, and they may ask for access to your account.

Never give anyone access to your gaming account. They can steal it, or they can use these details for any malicious intent. There’s simply no reason for you to give your game account details to anyone.

And, above all, make sure that your password is strong enough so someone can’t guess it. For example, a 10-digit password consisting only of numbers could be compromised in seconds or less with brute force software, which can try thousands of combinations in mere seconds.

However, create a 15-character password that uses numbers, and upper-case and lower-case letters, and it could take 600 million years!

There are bots online that impersonate players, capture their IDs, and automatically run brute force attacks to steal their information!

Worried about how you’ll remember all those passwords? For even greater security, and to avoid writing everything down — which you absolutely shouldn’t — you could use a password manager.

You can also check out our guide on how to create a secure password for important tips when setting new passwords.

Use multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor or two-factor authentication literally means using more than one method to verify your identity when you log into a gaming platform or service. This offers you much greater protection than a simple password, especially since many people reuse passwords or don’t realize that they’re using one that’s too easy to crack.

If you download games off Steam, active the Steam Guard two-factor authentication on your account. GOG also offers a two-step login, either via an authentication app like Google Authenticator or via text message.

This way, even if someone obtains your password, your account will still be protected. They can’t log in until they enter the one-time password (OTP) that you receive.

Only buy games from legitimate sources

Since hackers hide their malware inside of unregulated or modified files, you should only buy games from legitimate providers. So, avoid torrenting any game files and don’t install any modifications created by third parties. While you won’t have access to fan-created content, it’s a small price to pay for maximum security.

Buying games from legitimate sources like Steam or GOG is perfectly fine. It’s always a good idea to buy legit games, and even if you want to download mods, make sure you first scour the community for reviews.

There are several high-profile modders for specific games that are really big in their respective communities. Always do your research before you download files, especially free ones, from third-party websites.

Install a robust antivirus

These days, you should really be using a robust antivirus to protect your computer, especially when you’re frequently downloading games on it. Free antivirus software is better than no protection at all, but combined with the other tips here, a really good antivirus program will help keep your devices as secure as possible.

There are several companies that release antivirus software designed to offer maximum protection while gaming, without hogging computer resources. Here’s our list of the best antivirus software for gaming.

Incidentally, Kaspersky is our favorite antivirus right now, which offers real-time protection, phishing and ransomware protection, and regular, deep virus scanning. It ranks highest in our list of the best antivirus software for 2022.

Get Kaspersky Antivirus

Use a VPN for gaming online

When you connect to the internet, you broadcast a personal IP address that’s unique to your device. Websites, your ISP (internet service provider), and even skilled hackers can see this digital address and use it to work out your location.

If you’re into torrenting, it might shock you to know that your entire torrent swarm — those with whom you share files — can also see your IP address.

With this information, you face a number of risks. First of all, your identity could be compromised. Secondly, many VPNs have built-in threat protection, detecting malicious content and blocking it in real-time.

Using a VPN for gaming online is generally better, as it protects your identity and other sensitive information, such as where you’re logging in from and any other details.

Some gamers have even hit the news and received prison sentences for swatting their competitors, a highly illegal practice that involves reporting a false crime and sending an armed law enforcement unit to a competitor’s address.

However, when you use a VPN, you change your IP address. Your IP will change to mirror the IP address of the VPN server, which gives you far greater anonymity online and reduces the chance of you falling victim to the downright terrifying risks outlined above.

Our best VPN for gaming right now is ExpressVPN. With ExpressVPN, you’ve got reliable, speedy connectivity, and no data caps, so you shouldn’t see any impact on your gaming.

Great discount on annual subscription + 30-day money-back guarantee!
  • Very easy to use VPN
  • Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
  • 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Visit ExpressVPN

What To Do in Case of a Gaming Malware Infection

Infographic showing what to do if infected with malware

Perhaps you’re seeing unwanted pop-up adverts, or maybe you’ve spotted an odd application that you’ve never seen before. If you’ve got malware on your gaming platform, you need to act fast to minimize the damage. Below, you’ll find our quick, step-by-step guide to what you should do if your gaming device is infected with malware:

  1. Kill your internet connection. Unplug your device from the internet immediately. Disconnect your Ethernet cable and make sure that you’re not using Wi-Fi to prevent the malware from relaying more sensitive information.
  2. Close any programs or games that are running. Whatever you do, don’t try to log into any of your accounts where you’ll have to input a username and password. If you’re infected with a keylogger, it could capture anything you type with your keyboard.
  3. Don’t overreact and search frantically for malware removal tools. In the heat of the moment, you could end up downloading a program disguised as a virus and make the situation worse. Instead, you should ideally have and already be using antivirus software like Kaspersky.
  4. Run a malware scan. If you’re using a decent antivirus program, it should detect the malware right away and remove it. However, if your antivirus database isn’t updated with the latest definitions, it won’t detect anything.
  5. You might have to start your computer up in “safe mode.” This essentially means that your computer uses a basic startup with only a limited set of drivers and files. In safe mode, you should still be able to run an antivirus scan, and it’s worth trying a second time. In some cases, certain types of malware prevent the antivirus from running thorough scans during normal boot.
  6. You might need to revert to a backup if you’ve still had no joy. Or, use a System Restore Point to revert to a point before you downloaded any suspicious game or file. It’s generally a wise idea to create backups and store them on a USB, or in the cloud. Windows also automatically backs up your PC after regular intervals.

The best way to avoid gaming malware infections is to avoid downloading suspicious games in the first place. And, always avoid downloading games that seem too good to be true.

If you notice a cracked release of a high-profile game on a torrenting site just hours after its release, it’s probably riddled with malware. Even mobile devices aren’t safe either. Android devices are quite exposed. You may want to check our Android malware removal guide if you feel your mobile device is infected.

Final Thoughts

Video games have made huge leaps and bounds graphically and technologically, but so have the capabilities of hackers who are out to steal your personal data and hard-earned cash. When you’re trying out a new game or see a new piece of downloadable content (DLC), don’t let your excitement take the lead. Hackers commonly inject malicious code into games that discreetly steal personal information.

So, purchase your games from reputable providers and avoid downloading unverified game mods. Be sure that you’re also creating secure passwords and using a password manager for extra security. You should also give some serious thought to using a VPN for gaming if you want the best in terms of online security and anonymity possible.

The Most Malware-Infected Games and How to Protect Yourself: Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any questions about gaming malware and how to protect yourself from it, let us know! We have also answered some of the most frequently asked questions below.

Yes, you can get malware from games by downloading an infected game or any associated file. One of the most common ways is by downloading game mods (modifications) that have been created by third parties instead of the game developer. If you torrent files, then you could be downloading a file that has been tampered with. In some cases, the file might not be a mod at all; it could just be a virus in disguise. Check out our full article on the most malware-infected games for information on how to protect yourself against malware.

It’s not just games that can be infected with malware: any file you download from a non-trusted source could be malware in disguise. When we say non-trusted, we mean unknown companies or strangers on the internet. Generally, you’ll be safe if you’re downloading game files on PC from one of the big-brand websites, such as HumbleBundle or Steam. However, if you torrent files or use little-known websites, your device could risk being infected with malware.

One of the best ways to protect yourself when gaming is to use a VPN like ExpressVPN. When you connect to a VPN server, you change your IP address. Instead, your IP will mirror the IP address of the VPN server you’re using. It may also reduce lag! You can check our list of the best gaming VPNs for more information.

Cybersecurity journalist
Chris is a tech journalist with many years' experience covering the latest news in online privacy and cybersecurity. He's also a published author and works as a Product Manager for some of the most innovative software development companies.