According to AVG Technologies, more than 90 percent of all unauthorized 'hacks' for leading computer games, including cheats, patches, and "keygens" that enable use of pirated games, are infected with malware (h/t Softpedia).

Because the five most popular computer games are played by a total of approximately 330 million players worldwide, AVG says, the potential target market is huge -- even if just 0.1 percent of those players were to seek out a hack, that could still put 330,000 gamers at risk of being infected by malware.

One malware sample studied by the AVG Viruslab Research Group was designed to decrypt the victim's saved Web site passwords, then send them to the attacker via e-mail. "However, it could also mean you lose your game account altogether: attackers can profit from the theft by trading the accounts online in exchange for cash," the researchers write. "A registered user account could cost hundreds of dollars and hours of gameplay to replace, while in-game purchases (power-ups, weapons, equipment, etc.) may be lost or sold before the user has a chance to contact the game developer and reclaim their hacked account."

The solution, according to AVG, is simple: don't download cracks, hacks, trainers, or unofficial patches; only download patches from the game provider's official Web site; and use different user names and passwords for every game account.