Online gaming world signals future security challenges

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Online gaming world signals future security challenges

Ron Condon
The dividing line between the real and virtual worlds is blurring fast raising some complex security challenges. Virtual phenomena such as Second Life have created parallel worlds and economies where land, products and services (all of them virtual) can be bought and sold, and then turned into real cash.

In the online gaming world, where many thousands of people compete against each other, the desire to win prompts many to cheat their way to the top by buying the weapons they need with real money- rather than earn it by honing their skills over time. Sweatshops of low-paid players can also be hired to help well-heeled players move up a few levels.

Unsurprisingly, the virtual world has become a honey pot for real criminals who see the potential to earn big money fast.

People would be unwise to ignore what is going on in the gaming world
Rahul Joshi
Security consultantAccenture
This intriguing emerging world is the subject of an MSc thesis by Rahul Joshi, a security consultant for Accenture, and is one of a series of articles we are publishing from the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway University of London.

According to Joshi, the world of massively multi-player online games is a precursor of the kind of large multi-users systems we are likely to see in other areas of life. And so the problems and security challenges they face now are a good indicator of what the rest of us can expect to face in the future.

There is nothing virtual about the gaming industry itself – its profits and the number of people who participate in the games are only too real. For instance, the world's most popular game, World of Warfare, has more than 9 million players. And the trade in virtual items is worth as much as the gross domestic product of Bulgaria, Joshi has discovered.

"I was fascinated by this new world where people were prepared to pay large sums of money for things that didn't exist," he says. His research has uncovered the full extent, not only of the trade in virtual items, but also in the types of security threats that beset such large multi-user systems.

"People would be unwise to ignore what is going on in the gaming world," he says.

To read the full article, click here.


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