In a world where not even our virtual booty is safe, Jagex, who claims to be the UK's largest independent games developer and publisher, is using the law to fight back against fraudsters. RuneScape, the company's hugely popular free-to-play massively multiplayer online game, has been a persistent target for criminals looking to turn cybercrime into hard currency. However, as the first part of what is said to be an ongoing campaign against this brand of theft, Jagex's cooperation with police appears to have yielded results, and an arrest has been made in the Avon and Somerset region.
Several RuneScape account holders were tricked into releasing their details by way of a targeted phishing scam. Mark Gerhard, chief executive of Jagex, stated that the affected numbered a "few thousand" and that the resulting arrest had been the end product of a long-term investigation.
"Account theft and the use of phishing websites is a problem facing the entire online games industry and Jagex maintains a specialist team to combat any law breaking within our games" said Gerhard. "Players invest years of time and effort into developing their RuneScape character, so the theft of a RuneScape account shouldn’t be treated differently to the theft of any other valuable possessions such as a games console, television or car."
Gold farming, the process of building unreasonable wealth by endlessly repeating profitable activities within the game, was recently addressed by Jagex via changes to RuneScape's underlying code. Gerhard believes that because they eliminated this unfair method of gold acquisition, criminals were forced to find an alternative way to aquire loot.
"Once you close one vulnerability you move the attack surface to another part," said Gerhard. "They were going directly after the user credentials and trying to get at the wealth that way."
Jagex continues to cooperate with the PCeU and stresses a "zero tolerance" approach toward anyone who tries to introduce criminality into the RuneScape community. A spokesperson for the PCeU said, "People who seek to destroy others' online gaming experience could be committing criminal offences, leaving themselves liable to prosecution. The PCeU will continue to work with the industry and investigate these allegations where appropriate."