Gaming Security

5 Real Security Dangers of Downloading Pirated Games

Ben Stegner 13-09-2017

Awesome video games are coming out all the time — in fact, so far 2017 has been one of the best years for gaming 2017 in Gaming: New Releases You Must Know About 2017 is going to be a big year for gaming. Here are all the game releases you need to know about! Read More in recent memory. But new games are expensive, and nobody can afford to buy every new release.


So you might think of turning to piracy to game on the cheap. But even with older games, piracy isn’t safe. Setting ethical considerations aside, there are simply too many risks to playing pirated games. You shouldn’t pirate because…

1. It Could Introduce Your PC to Malware

It’s no secret that pirating any kind of software is an easy way to get a virus 10 Easy Ways to Never Get a Virus With a little basic training, you can completely avoid the problem of viruses and malware on your computers and mobile devices. Now you can calm down and enjoy the internet! Read More . Whenever you download from a reputable source, you can reasonably trust that the file you’re downloading is what the owners claims it is.

But that trust disappears when you’re downloading public torrents. How do you know that someone didn’t mess with the file before uploading it and add malware?

In 2013, AVG found that 90 percent of pirated video games are infected with malware. While this number is likely overblown, even a 50-50 chance of a pirated game holding malware is extremely dangerous. When the first Watch_Dogs launched, players who pirated it on PC were treated to Bitcoin mining malware. This wasted their system’s resources to make money for the malware creator.


Certainly not every cracked game download will contain malware. But think about it: people who want to mess with others’ computers to make money or even just for giggles have a wide-open target when a new game comes out. Impatient gamers will jump on the first crack of the new game that’s available, which could be a costly mistake.

2. You Could Lose Online Gaming Privileges

Particularly on consoles, playing pirated games is an offense that could result in a ban from Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. In 2009, Microsoft famously banned nearly a million Xbox Live players for modifying their Xbox 360 consoles and playing pirated games.

Microsoft’s Xbox Live Code of Conduct states the following (PlayStation has a similar policy):

“Don’t pirate or use another’s content without permission. For example, don’t:
– Share content more broadly than you’re allowed to share
– Use another’s intellectual property without permission (e.g., copyrights, trade secrets)
– Play any illegitimately obtained software or pirated games
– Play a game before it has been authorized for play on the service”

If you break these rules, Microsoft clearly lays out the consequences:


“A violation of the Microsoft Code of Conduct may be cause for these or other actions:
– Restrictions (e.g., communications, multiplayer, account access) on your use of Xbox Live services, if you abuse those services.
– Permanent suspension or device ban, if you commit an egregious violation that includes, but is not limited to: hacking, modding, profile tampering . . . .
– Permanent suspension or device ban, if you try to avoid suspension with alternate accounts and/or devices.
– Permanent suspension or device ban, if you repeatedly commit violations.

In short, pirating games is against the code of conduct and you could receive restrictions on your account up to permanent suspension. If that happens, you’ll lose access to any games you bought digitally and your Xbox Live subscription Xbox Live vs. PlayStation Plus: What Do You Get With Each? If you're got a PS4 or Xbox One, you've probably thought about subscribing to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. Let's see what they offer gamers for the price. Read More . That’s a lot of money wasted in the process of trying to save a few bucks by pirating.

3. It Might Land You in Legal Trouble

Just like illegally downloading music and movies, stealing video games via piracy is a federal crime in the United States. Punishment can range from paying back the copyright holder to spending time in jail.

Now, of course, many people pirate software and video games. It would be impossible for the FBI to catch them all. Chances are that you’re not going to spend half a decade in jail for downloading an illegal copy of Battlefield. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing something wrong. And since your ISP and the government track basically everything you do online Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Internet surveillance continues to be a hot topic so we've produced this comprehensive resource on why it's such a big deal, who's behind it, whether you can completely avoid it, and more. Read More anyway, it wouldn’t be too hard to prove that you’ve committed piracy.

4. The Game Might Not Even Work

Many game developers don’t wait for the government to stop pirates — they take action themselves. Some use digital rights management (DRM) systems that prevent illegal copies from working at all. But others get creative with ingame copyright measures 5 Strange Video Game Copy Protection Measures Used In History DRM isn’t a recent invention. There are games twenty years old that try to throw off hackers, pirates and thieves through various means, some of which are devious or downright evil. Pirating a game is... Read More .


One of the most famous copyright protections was 1994’s EarthBound, a roleplaying game on the SNES. If the game discovered you were using an illegitimate copy, it showed antipiracy messages and greatly increased the amount of enemies in the game. This made it miserable to play through, but the ultimate punishment came at the end of the game. During the final boss, the game freezes and deletes your entire save data.

More recently, developers have come up with creative ways to screw with pirates. The first Crysis replaces your bullets with chickens so you can’t defeat enemies. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman’s glide move plummets him to the ground and thus you can’t get through the game’s introduction. The Talos Principle locks pirates in an elevator after several hours of play.

Game Dev Tycoon, an indie game released in 2013, is a simulation game where you work to come up with new ideas for a video game and sell them to build your business. Its crackdown on pirates was particularly ingenious. The developers intentionally released a cracked version to pirating sites.

In it, your ingame studio is eventually plagued with pirates stealing your game without paying, preventing you from making a profit. Ironically, pirates flocked to forums to complain about the piracy in the game, incriminating themselves as the real thieves.


With these and other examples, it’s clear that pirating a video game might not even provide you with a usable product. And you’re hurting developers who are depending on sales from the game to make a living.

5. You Might Get More Than You Bargained For

This is a similar risk to the first point, but still a problem nonetheless. When you wander into the world of game piracy, you open yourself up to the possibility of inappropriate content. Aside from straight malware, browsing pirate sites and searching for a cracked copy of a game could expose you to pornographic or other NSFW content.

You could spawn explicit pop-ups or install something nasty by accidentally clicking the wrong download button How to Avoid Fake Ads Disguised as Fake Download Links Fake ads disguised as download links are all over the web. Here are some vital tips to avoid ads designed to trick you. Read More . Who’s to say that the “game” you’re pirating is even really the right video game? After all, you already know that someone who is illegally breaking the copyright protection and distributing a video game has a questionable moral compass. What would stop someone like that swap out your expected game with disgusting videos or something similar?

When you jump into the wild west of illegally accessing games, you open yourself to anything and everything in those sections of the web. You might not have a problem, but don’t be surprised if your game comes with more than you expected.

Piracy: Not Worth the Risks

People often treat piracy with a casual attitude, but these real hazards show that it’s a serious matter. Thankfully, there’s some great news at the end of all this piracy talk.

You don’t need to resort to piracy anymore.

Streaming services and app subscriptions have turned once-expensive endeavors into affordable monthly installments. This applies to gaming too—services like PlayStation Now let you stream games for a set price a month. But more importantly, you can play years’ worth of games without spending much.

If you don’t have any money to spend, check out the best places to get premium PC games at no cost. Or fuel your nostalgia with free retro PC games. You can also rent games if you don’t want to keep them.

In the end, given the risks involved, there’s no excuse for video game piracy. If you can’t pay $60 for a new game, wait until it goes on sale and get a cheap or free game instead. Don’t risk your security for a bit of money and the short-lived thrill of playing a new game right away. The same goes for watching your favorite TV shows—pirating Game of Thrones can give you malware How Pirating Game of Thrones and Other Shows Can Give You Malware Thinking about pirating the latest series of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead? There's a real risk of malware! Read More , too.

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  1. Gamer
    December 1, 2019 at 5:46 am

    & that's my friend is an article in support of Game-Publishers.

    What we learn't above is:
    You don't own your games, just a subscription to them which can be revoked whenever the company desires. Unless u buy it from GOG which let's u actually own your games. You can install it on as many machines as possible without the need for going online to activate them.

    Mind that I'm NOT SUPPORTING PIRACY at all but:
    ->First companies should always provide playable demos of their games so that consumers can know what they are actually getting for their money. For example Ubisoft showed a more good looking version but downgraded the graphics of Watch Dogs before releasing it. They never suffered any consequences for this.

    ->Games should be provided as a product not as a subscription service. You should not loose games that u have purchased legally in any case.

    ->Games should be absolutely free of any invasive recurring DRM like Denuvo. IT IS A MALWARE LEGALLY DISTRIBUTED BY THE COMPANIES. It uses your system to run in the background, hogs the resources including internet thus reducing the maximum performance of the system for any particular game. GOG games will always run faster than DRM games.

    ->There always should be a RETURN OPTION to return the game if you don't like it or it is not running as you expected.


  2. SomeOrdinaryPirates
    March 22, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    > "Piracy: Not Worth the Risks. People often treat piracy with a casual attitude, but these real hazards show that it’s a serious matter. "

    There are no risks if you know what you're doing. I have been pirating games for a long time and my computer has always been virus-free. Yes, there are arguments about why piracy is illegal & immoral, and I'm not gonna argue with that. But I am gonna say that piracy is not all that risky, and if you do screw up your computer while trying to pirate, it's your fault.

    • MalwareHunter
      June 11, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      Obviously this article is not catered for you.

      • Blackbeard
        September 2, 2019 at 6:03 pm

        The article isn't catered for anyone. Its fear mongering nonsense. As long as you use trusted sources (which are incredibly easy to find even for my nan) there is no risk what so ever of malware. Also I had crysis, when my pc broke and I lost all my log-in info I got a pirated version and no chickens ever so dunno where that's from. Most cracked games actually work better than the legitimate veriosns as you dont have stupid DRM hogging CPU usage in the background like denuvo does (it literally abuses CPU usage causing massive frame spikes). In AC origins I get an extra 15-20fps by playing it cracked instead of the version I bought. Now any game I buy with denuvo i crack it for the extra performance. No idiot plays pirated online games either, they specifically ask you to block the firewall and tell you how to do it. legally you can get in trouble yes, but unless you're sharing it with millions over your servers its very unlikely, there's also VPN's. Morally I have little issue pirating a game from a morally bankrupt company. The big pirating companies like 3dm and codex also stopped pirating for a year a few years back to see what effect it had on the gaming industry, the answer was zero, in fact the gaming industry was worse off that year. the ting with piraters is, if you make a good game then piraters will eventually buy it after playing a pirated version. with no pirated version to try they wont. I Thought that it was really interesting when they did that, that not pirating games actually negatively affected the gamig industy as a whole, and in a big way.