What Among Us can teach you about malware

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Everyone from me to AOC is playing ‘Among Us’  now, and guess what? While we’re sneaking around murdering our friends in-game or trying not to get murdered while we complete our tasks, we’re also learning a valuable skill—watching out for imposters. 

That’s important when we’re trapped on a spaceship with a sneaky serial killer who looks and acts (almost) just like us. It can also help us learn how  to avoid one of the worst imposters of the digital age: malware.

Really, the whole ‘Among Us’  scenario offers a pretty good analogy for what malware is and does. So, if you’re wondering exactly what makes malware so tricky and what you can do about it, consider what you may have already learned from playing ‘Among Us’ .

Everyone just wants to get their tasks done

In ‘Among Us’ , you and your crewmates and are all trying to get your tasks finished so you can keep the spaceship going. 

Do all the tasks, win the game, just like real life, right? It’s not much different from collaborating with your coworkers or friends on a group project.  

But there’s a hidden threat

At least one of your crewmates (maybe it’s you!) is an imposter. The imposter looks and acts like one of the team—except for when they lash out and sabotage everyone’s tasks or murder crewmates. 

Like an imposter, malware gets into the system you’re using for work or school disguised as something normal, like ordinary messages, files and scripts. Malware often looks like it’s part of the team, ‘helping’ you log in to your email system or downloading ‘important’ files. 

Once it’s onboard, an imposter (or malware) can start creating mayhem right away. When that happens, you know you have a problem even if you’re not sure yet who or what is causing it. 

Or imposters/malware can lurk quietly for a long time—think passive play where the imposter just bides their time, acting normal and waiting for the perfect time to unleash some chaos.

whos your cyber imposter

And there may be trust issues

While they’re lulling everyone into a false sense of security, imposters and phishing scammers can play on your trust and trick you into thinking they’re your buddy. You wouldn’t eject your buddy into the cold, airless void of space, would you? 

Just like that fake email that says it’s from your bank, asking you to enter your username and password (don’t do it!), the imposter may come across as friendly and helpful. You’re teaming up to get things done—yay, friendship!—and then all of a sudden you get assassinated. 

The trouble begins

For an ‘Among Us’  imposter, troublemaking means sabotage and murder. With malware, it’s whatever problems the creators designed it to cause. That could be 

  • stealing payment data as customers enter it on your website
  • locking you out of your databases and making you pay for access
  • defacing or crashing your website
  • impersonating you via email or social media account takeovers 
  • silently taking control of your computer to infect your work or home network
  • directing customers looking for your website to an imposter site instead
  • temporarily removing the “Despacito” video from YouTube
  • disrupting worldwide shipping traffic
  • mining bitcoin using your resources

Regardless of what the crisis is—maybe one of your ‘Among Us’ crewmates gets killed and no one’s sure who the killer is, maybe you’re locked out of your website—once the problems start, you have to react. 

And you have to stop it

You and your crewmates meet and look at where everybody was at the time of the murder. You try to narrow it down to who was the most probable killer, and you vote them off.

Problem solved? Only if you really ejected the imposter. If not, they’re going to keep on sabotaging and killing until you ID them and send them into space. If they do enough damage and your crew can’t fix it in time, the imposter wins.

Same thing with some kinds of malware. If you don’t completely remove it from every machine on your network, you and your colleagues are going keep taking damage. Your whole project might even fail. Ugh.

Use your security tools

Even with an imposter on board, the other crewmates aren’t completely helpless. They have 

  • vitals to see who’s alive and who’s been killed
  • cams to scan different areas of the ship
  • admin to see where each player is
  • logs to show you who’s moving between checkpoints 

Sometimes you can just straight up catch someone on cams killing a crewmate, which means you’ve found your imposter and you can vote them off. 

More often, you have to do detective work and pull together info from logs, admin and cams to see who was where, when. To win, it really helps to have team members using each tool so there’s continuous monitoring. 

The same idea is true for malware detection. You need continuous scans to make sure that, for example, your site code hasn’t been corrupted. You need scanning across your entire website, computer or network to make sure there’s not trouble brewing in one area that can spread. 

You need good password hygiene to make sure the people who log in to your site or system are who they say they are. And you need logs to show who’s visited your site, who logged in, who tried to log in using fake credentials, when any changes were made to your code and what they were.

‘Among Us’  is a fun game. Malware, not so much

When you’re the imposter, you’re trying to win through sabotage and murder. There’s no other goal because it’s just for fun. 

Cybersecurity isn’t a game, though. If online imposters inject malware into your site, hijack your email domain to run phishing campaigns or hold your data hostage, it could take a lot of time and money to repair the damage. 

‘Among Us’  kind of trains us to always check the behavior of things around us, whether that’s fellow players on an alien ship or email messages and web forms that don’t seem quite right. 

‘Among Us’  also shows us how to use all the tools we have to spot threats early, before they take over our ship, our business or our home network. 

When we use cams and Admin to keep an eye on a fellow player who was being sus the past couple of meetings, we’re doing a kind of threat detection. However, the internet is a lot bigger than just a spaceship and 10 crewmates. 

Outside the game, we can and should pay attention to odd files, messages and activity on our systems. But we also need help to scan for malware around the clock and eject it before it can sabotage our goals. That way we can get our tasks done—whatever they are—and win.

Get the tools you need to keep malware from cutting into your gaming (and working) time. HostGator Managed WordPress Hosting packages include SiteLock Fix to scan your site, screen your data and clean out any “imposter” code.

Kevin Williams bio photo

Kevin Williams is part of HostGator’s social media team, where he’s like our go-to resident nerdy-tech guy. But he was once that guy answering the phones on our support staff. When he’s not playing the voice of Snappy on social, Kevin is reading, hiking, building PCs, and playing videos games. You know, the stuff that makes him our resident nerdy-tech guy.