Online Gaming Is Lucrative For Organized Gold Farming Rings

So-called “gold farmers” play massive multiplayer online games, not for fun, but to accumulate virtual currency, or “gold,” which can then be sold to other players, despite the fact that most game operators explicitly ban the exchange of in-game currency for cash. Gold farming is so lucrative, people in China and other developing nations can support themselves by working full-time operating gold farming rings.

During an interview with TechRadar’s Dan Griliopoulous, Will Leverett, Senior Manager of Customer Service at South Korea-based online video game company NCsoft, explains,“We’re convinced that groups on the seedier side of the Internet run in parallel to each other, with many offenders in China and Russia. The simplest thing players could exchange for real-world cash was in-game currency, which would then hugely unbalance the in-game economy and auction systems; essentially, those people buying currency were using their real-world wealth to employ a tribe of servants to do their work for them, as opposed to their compatriots who were attempting the same thing by the sweat of their brow.”

Massively multiplayer games that are free-to-play typically feature in-game currency, which can be converted to real cash. This currency drives organized criminals to set up banks of gamers on various IP addresses, manipulating the game in order to accumulate as much currency as possible.

Many leading gaming publishers and MMOs are finding it increasingly necessary to deploy a layered defense to prevent gold farming, chargebacks, virtual asset theft, and, increasingly, account takeovers within gaming environments. By leveraging the power of device identification and device reputation technology, which examines the computers, smart phones, and tablets being used to connect to an online game, the publisher can easily detect patterns of players working together and shut down an entire ring of cheaters at once. In one case, a major gaming publisher implemented Oregon-based iovation’s fraud protection service and was able to take action against 1,000 fraudulent accounts almost immediately.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses identity theft for the National Speakers Association. (Disclosures.)