The failure to recognise the importance of protecting real-money value locked up in multiplayer online games and virtual worlds has led to an escalation in world fraud that threatens one billion users globally, says the European Network and Information Security Agency.
The Ensia report says multiplayer online gamers are a 'soft target' for cybercriminals seeking to raid the EUR1.5 billion virtual goods market.
A survey in the report shows that 30% of users have recently lost some form of virtual property through fraud. In less than a year, more than 30,000 new malicious programs have been detected specifically targeting accounts and property in online games and virtual worlds - a jump of 145%, says Kaspersky labs.
Such malware is invariably aimed at the theft of virtual property accumulated in a user's account and its sale for real money.
"While annual real-money sales of virtual goods is estimated at nearly EUR1.5 billion worldwide, users can do very little if their virtual property is stolen," says Giles Hogben, editor of the report put together by a group of industry, academic and government experts. "There are one billion registered players of online games worldwide and the malware targeting them affects everyone with a computer connected to the Internet."
The report calls for the creation of an industry-wide forum for service providers to share best-practice on security vulnerabilities, and clarification of virtual property rights for more adequate theft protection. It also suggests that operators work with banks, credit companies and online payment service providers to develop procedures for prohibiting virtual asset theft using chargebacks.
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