Monday, September 12, 2005

New Ways to Steal

Collision Detection comments on a new wave of theft.

Antivirus companies have recently put out an advisory for a piece of malware called "PWSteal.Wowcraft". And what does this computer virus do? As Symantec describes it: PWSteal.Wowcraft is a password-stealing Trojan horse that attempts to steal the password to the "World of Warcraft" game and send it to the creator of the Trojan. This is ever more evidence that the economy of virtual worlds is becoming so lucrative that crime -- in all its variants -- is moving there.
Basically what happens is an online gamer (yourself, your kids, etc.) play and acquire objects valuable to the game. Someone hacks the system, steals your virtual posessions and sells them online. As Clive points out:
At first, when I heard of the Wowcraft trojan, I thought hmmm: Virtual-world crime is considerably easier to pull off than real-world crime, because role-playing games are filled with virtual items that are easy to steal. When you steal someone's World of Warcraft password, you can go in and force their avatar to hand over all their goods and in-world currency to the criminal's account, then quickly sell the stuff on ebay or any online game-merchandise site. It's very easy to make game-world stuff liquid. But then I realized, hey, how is this different from real-world digital crime? A Russian cracker gang gets the information to your bank account, goes in pretending to be you, transfers the money to a foreign bank, then extracts it and washes it clean. Sure, role-playing games are rife with possibilities for identity theft. But the real world of commerce and finance is itself, by now, almost indistinguishable from a role-playing game.
My writer's brain overloads and fries when I start thinking through the various scenarios that could come of this.

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