- In-game purchases and currencies are spurring a rise in gaming-related laundering
- Minecraft, FIFA, World of Warcraft and more are used for laundering
- China and South Korea become hotspots for gaming-currency laundering
In April of 2017, we started an independent, academic study into the macro economics of cybercrime and how cybercriminals launder and ‘cash out’ the profits of criminal endeavours. This is just part of the nine-month study we sponsored titled Into the Web of Profit. The full findings will be presented at the RSA Conference in April by Dr. Mike McGuire, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Surrey University, England.
Today, in part two, we find out how gaming currency and goods are used to clean dirty money. Read part one and part three.
Video games generate goods and money that can be bought and sold with dirty money.
Cybercriminals are spending “considerable time” converting stolen income into video game currency or “virtual goods” that include in-game items like gold, which are then converted into bitcoin or other electronic formats.
Games such as Minecraft, FIFA, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Star Wars Online and GTA 5 are among the most popular options because they allow covert interactions with other players that allow trade of currency and goods.
Just for fun: Watch Sheldon sell the Sword of Azeroth on eBay.
Dr. McGuire added, “Gaming currencies and items that can be easily converted and moved across borders offer an attractive prospect to cybercriminals. This trend appears to be particularly prevalent in countries like South Korea and China – with South Korean police arresting a gang transferring $38 million laundered in Korean games, back to China. The advice on how to do this is readily available online and explains how cybercriminals can launder proceeds through both in-game currencies and goods.” Explainer: How Money Laundering Really Works.
We need to work together to disrupt cybercrime
“We invested in this research to instigate a meaningful conversation about how to disrupt the economic systems and poor security practices that enable cybercrime around the world; frankly because it’s far too easy for them,” commented Gregory Webb, CEO of Bromium.
“Today it is easy for hackers to infect machines, steal data, and hold businesses and individuals for ransom or sell stolen IP because enterprise defences are not fit for purpose. It is equally easy for them to wash that money and convert it into cash – and the rise in use of unregulated, virtual currencies is making this even easier.
“We need to attack the problem in a different way. Law enforcement, the cybersecurity industry and both the public and private sectors need to be vigilant about disrupting cybercrime. Protecting applications that access sensitive data is an absolute requirement. We need a whole new approach to cybersecurity or these figures will continue to increase over time.”
Ending The Cyber Drug Wars – we’re on a mission
We’ve been reporting on “The Cyber Drug Wars” since early last year, in an attempt to pull together best practices that change the way cybersecurity is used today. We see that end users are often held accountable as the last line of defense – at the endpoint – and that approach isn’t working. From security pros admitting they have paid ransoms and bypassed security protocols to CISOs feeling stuck in the middle between locking down access to prevent breaches to being chastised for throttling innovation. With application isolation supported by micro-virtualization, we’re able to protect without detection. If you’d like to learn more about protecting email, phishing links, and documents, find out here.
About Dr. Mike McGuire
Dr. Michael McGuire joined the Department as Senior Lecturer in Criminology in September 2012. Dr McGuire read Philosophy & Scientific method at the London School of Economics where he acquired a first-class BSc Econ and he completed his Ph.D., at Kings College London. He has subsequently developed an international profile in the study of technology and the justice system and has published widely in these areas.
Want to interview Mike? Please let us know.