Microsoft: Mobsters targeting MMOGs

Security engineer warns conference attendees that "organized crime" is selling stolen massively multiplayer online game accounts on the black market.

Players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games spend at lot of time creating their characters. With monthly subscriptions to games like World of Warcraft (paid) and Guild Wars (free) bringing an unending flow of new adventures, players spend hundreds of hours completing quests, accumulating experience, and acquiring gold and items.

As a result, a strong emotional bond between MMORPG players and their characters often forms. So it was unsurprising, then, that more than a little distress was caused by a warning this week from Microsoft that criminal elements are hacking into MMORPGs, stealing MMORPG account information, and selling it on the black market--effectively kidnapping and killing characters.

"Those of you who are working on massively multiplayer online games, organized crime is already looking at you," Microsoft security development engineer Dave Weinstein told developers at the Microsoft Gamefest yesterday, according to Reuters. "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."

In his session, which was appropriately titled "Games as Malware: Why Security Is Your Problem Too," Weinstein outlined a modus operandi all too familiar to MMOG publishers, developers, and some unfortunate players. Taking advantage of chinks in a game's security software, criminals acquire account information and then illegally access accounts. Then, either the account information is sold on the black market or, more commonly, coveted in-game items and currency are stolen and turned into actual cash via online auction sites.

Though most in the audience were aware of such problems, Weinstein underscored the fact that real-world authorities are often unresponsive to in-game theft. "The police are really good at understanding 'Someone stole my credit card and ran up a lot of money,'" he said. "It's a lot harder to get them to buy into, 'Someone stole my magic sword.'"

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Discussion

150 comments
Olzhas
Olzhas

:P i thought mobsters usually buy drugs or something now the game that does it

RyuaNesha
RyuaNesha

scary, "effectively kidnapping and killing characters", ah **** i dont wanna login to me teleporting to some dark area and being raped *cries*

Cloud737
Cloud737

What`s next? Taking revenge on someone by killing his level 60 character with a rogue?

dj_belay
dj_belay

is it just me or is organized crime getting lazier?

piecake
piecake

wtf better than drugs i guess!

Crew_SK
Crew_SK

lol. actually no one can even attempt to steal your account/items if you don't get greedy. most acconts that are stolen are stolen because users install 3rd party addons that are actually key loggers. People that want to use software to "make their lives easier" in MMOGs are the people that lose their accounts. If you stick to legit material from the authorized servers the mafia can't steal your account. EVER.

loung747
loung747

sad just when u want to just have fun there is always crime

loung747
loung747

,ost likely the traids has there hand in this

GPAddict
GPAddict

Guild Wars ROCKS! They better not steal my Furious Oni Daggers of Dagger Mastery!!!

s0ild_snake
s0ild_snake

this is a good game i play it and i like about it story

Merl57
Merl57

LOL the last line was funny but yes I would be rather pissed if my 1660 hour guild wars account was stolen. Do they just hack the code or do they hire scammers like WTS account for 100k?

Lt_Metal_Gear
Lt_Metal_Gear

This sort of thing seems kinda....unavoidable. Lets face it, our world's full of jerks.

atlessky
atlessky

u wan my character......but it was stolen..T_T(fake story) and why did u say now cuz.....i don't have anymore character

deathsquad99
deathsquad99

wow thats so pathetic. its pathetic that people are stealing accounts and even more pathtic that people will buy them. watch out for the geek mob, theyre tougher than real italians.!

DeadManRollin
DeadManRollin

This is so ironic....who'd know that game will once accomodate organized crimes?

MB_E102
MB_E102

Ever watch that movie poperotsi (sorry, I know I spelled that wrong)??? Well, here's the gist of it. Most actors/actresses are used to having pictures taken of them, constantly. But what happens when one takes a picture of the wrong actor? I have a feeling we'll be seeing Arni reprise a role for the movie: "World of Wartheft: My Account Will Be Back!" in which we see helpless Gold Farmers and Italian Handle Bar Moustache-touting mobster's ganked... in what Jeremy TheOwnerer would call RL (real life). If not, I think people will take a stand after a while.

johnnyv2003
johnnyv2003

imma gonna make em an offer they cant refuse

Heydanud
Heydanud

take the guns, leave the gold.

soxs
soxs

Its just pathetic what levels people stoop to!

RahKayne
RahKayne

so true, addictive and then some idiot steals it, wtf i'll kill you. :) jking............... or am I?

bigelf72
bigelf72

Makes sense....take something that has no monitary value....something that cops won't take action against...and turn a profit....BRILLIANT!

auron_xp
auron_xp

i dont play MMOGs, even if i do, i would use game cards. besides, so what? my character sucks.

poopsmith111
poopsmith111

It seems almost sad that people have actually come to this robbing people in a video game just to make some cash. Its almost hard to se whats worse the person how has spent hours on end making the character or the person desperate enough to steal it to make a little money.

kretyn
kretyn

LOL!!! what a joke

Talhazad
Talhazad

Personally i think its rather ugly that there is such thing as organized crime and its even uglier that they got into stealing freaking virtual accounts and stuff... Im aint one of them highly addicted players and spend most of my time either at collage or at work then evenings on WoW. What i want to say is that its not only the question about gaming but the question about justice and it isnt just that this kind of crime is being overseen by lawenforcments.

benrinehart23
benrinehart23

This is good news. I wish the MMORPG genre would die so Blizzard could focus more of its resources into making great single player games again.

ishcabible6000
ishcabible6000

I play the game www.kingdomofloathing.com, which is completely free to play, and this kind of stuff is also a huge problem. Some items in that game are extremely hard to acquire, and some can't be found anymore. You can pay $10 to buy a "Mr. Accessory" which brings up your stats or can be traded in for a different item. People get mad when their accounts get hacked or "password guessed". And honestly, the community has very little sympathy for them when it happens. Mainly because when it happens, it turns out their password was "password1" or something to that extent. We have done campaigns to get people to use more complicated passwords, so when it won't happen. I realize that people can go through email accounts and such and even directly hack into your computer to get passwords, but the fact of the matter is, make your account unobtainable, and it won't be stolem. Anyone here hear about that huge thing that happened on EVO Online? $1000 of dollars of stuff was taken, took a month to pull off, and no accounts were hacked.

skeetts
skeetts

How Microsoft is knowing anything about, World of Warcraft's business is a bit spooky.. I know some chinese farmers that farm the game and had their accounts banned, the people at Bliz.have put some kind of check into the game that can detect hacks,that make money by altering the code in game, because it dilutes the game gold like counterfieting would and the hacks crash the servers sometime,so there is a hue and cry from the american ,canadian and aust. holders of the banned accounts ,that are lyng about their charactors being stolen.They investment has be wiped out ,They hire kids to play the game for a few weeks non-stop and at $40.to buy CD key to open an account and $50. to the kid to make a level 60 and $30. for a 2 month time card ,times prob. 10 accounts and the lost of the level 60 charactors that are sold on players auction and ebay for $200-$1200 USD, i'd make noise too.LOL.. And there is the other way, a Internet company power levels your charactor up to level 60 using private contractors from China, and gives you back your super level 60, and after a few weeks the private contractor can come back into your account and sell it's account and password on Ebay and two cheating Americans ,one that power leveled and the one that bought it on line are contacting Bliz. over ownership.. I like the Guildwars email address for account name as only the true owner can get the changed password, as I know ,because i forgot the old email address i used to set-up account and now I'am locked out of my $50 game.

Nawras
Nawras

This is honestly getting absurd.

rhcpvisigoth
rhcpvisigoth

OK, so we know the problem exists, but how does anyone go about solving it? I think first thing developers need to do is make sure their games are bloody hack-proof... this kind of "online identity" theft is really annoying...

Hrasko
Hrasko

Here in Brazil we also have laws just for online crimes. And there's a lot colleges adopting new law specialization for these online problems. It is kinda sad that in the US, which is one of the biggest online market, is still slow on this kind of problem...

bku512
bku512

IN short Stop making anymore MMORPGs there's just to many of them

TUNEwon
TUNEwon

Well I guess it's time for all you MMO gamers out there to stop cheating by buying charaters you didn't play, and of course to stop taking these games so seriously. There, problem solved. Renaissance festival rejects. Oh BTW I do have 3 characters in COH that are level caped. Anyone wana buy them... snicker:) Sorry for the scarastic type, but these are the over the top gamers that give us all a bad name. And now they are getting what they deserve.

solonchen
solonchen

well, stealing someone's online character, items, and currency is a crime in my country. we have a cyber police deparment that takes complain from stolen online goods to hackers breaching your company. some of the online games in here even provide contracts for you to download and sign with your buyer if your want to sell any of your online goods.

AlphaLeviathan
AlphaLeviathan

Well, can you blame them? People get a little obsessed with MMORPGs -- perhaps getting their characters taken would be a much needed slap back into reality. It's too bad this kind of thing didn't happen to the asian guy that died after playing WoW for about 50 straight hours at an internet cafe. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4137782.stm

The_Weekend
The_Weekend

no wonder i never got into MMOs ... i hate that idea that i cannot even be safe from all the crime in the real world ... i have to also worry about my character in the game world! Online kidnapping anyone?

drummerchik224
drummerchik224

I can believe it... visit some of the selling accounts sites/forums and you'll see a lot of people who will have like 3 or 4 account for sale, all with level 60's. I highly doubt they levelled all of those up themselves.

grim_fandango
grim_fandango

"The police are really good at understanding 'Someone stole my credit card and ran up a lot of money,'" he said. "It's a lot harder to get them to buy into, 'Someone stole my magic sword.'" Lol! So funny, but so true... Maybe in response to this problem a MMOG version of SWAT will be created ^^

lvlUNE3B
lvlUNE3B

lmao... it's your headache not ours :P.

ChancreScolex
ChancreScolex

Dude someone put out an Amber Alert for my lvl55 rogue, he got kidnapped!!

dryden555
dryden555

I'm not sure I believe this news item -- sounds bogus

Zifhael
Zifhael

to rvdzn sorry if you thought i was talking to you when i made the comment about keeping one's trap shut, you were only mentioned because of the oversight, just defending k1llswitch

Matt7895
Matt7895

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

huntz62
huntz62

Oh these problem also happen where I lived for long time now due to the major player of MMORPG game here play at internet cafe so it's easy to steal user and password like peeking when they typing user/pass to login or install some kind of key logger program that email log file to hacker email . Hacked account will be sell in separate piece on market Characters,game currency and rare item like 100G@ $20 and lvl 99 char @$50 rare sword that take like 200 hrs play time to acquire sell @$100 something like that all are example price I don't know the real price.

_Sam_
_Sam_

How do you find the black market :P

supercrap1
supercrap1

Ha! That's what you get for having children. Or MMORPG characters.

HuxleyHobbes
HuxleyHobbes

And I presume Warhammar miniatures are not worth getting worked up over if they're stolen? A signed shirt from your favorite athlete? Because they're the same thing; something important to someone has been stolen. Data is just as real as anything else, the fact that it is intangible makes no difference (Unless you are seriously suggesting that when you speak to someone on the telephone it's of no consequence and they're 'not real').

jonathanwayman
jonathanwayman

Here is the real problem. One there are criminal types benefiting from the hard work/play of other people to make a monetary gain. Effectively stealing and pawning product to make currency. This is completely illegal anyway you look at it. Yes, the player could be seen as the victim in this case. However, if you have read your license agreement, you don't own your WoW account or any characters contained therein. For all legal purposes the crimes being committed are against Blizzard, since effectively they DO own the accounts. All measures of security/prosecution should be propagated by Blizzard. So there are several issues at stake here. Blizzard is responsible for securing our private information that they keep for billing purposes. I would assume a company as reputable as Blizzard probably has fairly good security built around their billing database. If not they need to pick up their slack and do so. This also includes our account credentials for playing the game. The player has a responsibility per the license agreement to refrain from using third party software to enhance game play. (I'm not talking about UI mods) I would venture to say that the majority of stolen accounts are due to people downloading cheats and bots and installing them. Many of these pieces of software could easily contain Trojans designed to gather your account credentials. Lastly, the player also has responsibility for securing his/her own system. Operating system updates, antivirus software, personal firewall. Good computer usage practices, don't just install every piece of software you come across just because you have antivirus software installed. http://www.microsoft.com/security/default.mspx Antivirus applications are signature based for the most part and can not protect you from unknown threats. This is probably the second most common way accounts are stolen, and this overlaps a bit with my previous point. Blizzard can do everything possible to secure their system but if you don't take measures to secure your own system, they can't help you, and it's not their responsibility.

FortuneC00kie
FortuneC00kie

So basically this is an article about how WoW's security sucks? "l0l s0rry folks ur nam guna get stoled lololol!!! That is all"