"Computer criminals have opened a new front in their quest for ill-gotten gains: the virtual world of "massively multi-player" online games, writes Kevin Allison in San Francisco.
Security experts say an increasing number of hackers have begun to target games such as World of Warcraft and Lineage, in which millions of players gather artefacts, cast spells and battle each other for glory and riches. The hackers steal the passwords of players to gain access to their armouries and treasure troves, then sell the virtual assets online.
'These are commercial operations, where the target is to gain access to hundreds of accounts,' says Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, an online security group. 'The [virtual] gold, weapons and spells are sold in open markets for real-world cash.'
Mr. Hypponen says hackers feel safer targeting online games or poker sites instead of bank accounts. 'Cops will go after you if you break into banks', he says. 'Imagine someone trying to file a police report about how someone stole their gold in World of Warcraft. It wouldn't get far.'
Complete characters from Wow can sell for more than $500 on sites such as eBay, while units of virtual gold, which is used as currency in the game, sell for a few dollars."
Sorry guys - I couldn't link to the full article as there is no free trial option for the FT (apparently, free 15-day trial means free after you pay them for a real subscription), so I took the liberty of typing the rest of the article. The link to the story (if anyone wants to verify my transcription after paying for a subscription!) is here: