Virtual Character Kidnapping Emerges in MMORPGs

For the video gamer, and more specifically the MMORPG player, there are certain crossovers of reality that enter into the virtual world-friendships are formed, enemies are made, and perhaps not so surprising, an element of criminal activity enters the digital domain. Gold farming and hacking has become a common occurrence in which gamers either hack or use third party programs to accelerate the rate at which they can obtain gold or valuable items. These virtual goods are then sold in the real world for real cash.

But something else has occurred in the realm of MMORPGs that makes the activity of gold farming look like child,s play in comparison: virtual kidnapping. This dirty deed occurs when criminal elements hack into MMORPGs and steal sensitive user account data. The result? The account information is sold on the black market. The virtual character that you have spent years in developing suddenly vanishes and is offered for sale on the virtual auction block.

How much value does a pilfered character have and who is behind this criminal activity? It isn,t the teenage hacker or the computer thrill seeker. It just might be the Mob. Dave Weinstein, a security development engineer said to game developers at Microsoft Gamefest that, "Those of you who are working on massively multiplayer online games, organized crime is already looking at you. For a lot of the customers out there, there is more store value on their MMOG characters than there is on the credit card with which they pay for the account," according to Reuters.

If you become, or shall we say your character becomes, the unfortunate victim of such a crime, reporting the disappearance of your beloved warlock or paladin to the police may not offer the satisfaction or service you may be looking for. Weinstein said, "The police are really good at understanding ‘Someone stole my credit card and ran up a lot of money, it’s a lot harder to get them to buy into, ‘Someone stole my magic sword.’"

As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. For MMORPG players, this means a constant vigil of their characters, monitoring credit card account activity and reporting any suspicious online events immediately to the game company’s help hotline.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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