Games’ popularity: Computer security tipping point?

Online games and virtual worlds – more than social networking or any technology before it – could be where computer-security ed really hits home with users. Why? Because online games and worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life have whole economies in which users buy and sell virtual goods “to the tune of $1 billion a year” industry-wide, CNET reports, citing game security experts speaking at the RSA 2009 security conference in San Francisco recently. So it just may be true that money talks. Two examples they gave occurred in Second Life and WoW. In one hack created just to prove it could be done, a security expert figured out how to “filch Second Life users’ virtual currency – which is directly convertible to US dollars – [and] … credit card information and then use it to buy more of the currency to trade in.” In WoW, a security expert wrote a bot (software code that automates certain actions and that’s “almost universally prohibited” in games and worlds), which “allowed his character to stay safe from attack from the rear, while also luring in loot-bearing enemies to kill. Once killed, the enemies would be regenerated by the bot, allowing Hoglund’s character to kill them and pick off all their loot over and over again, a process that netted him significant profit,” according to CNET.

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