The Economy of Online Gaming Fraud Revealed: 3.4 Million Malware Attacks Every Day

28 Sep 2010
Virus News

Kaspersky Lab has released an article titled “The Underground Economy of Online Gaming Fraud” authored by Virus Analyst Christian Funk. In the last three to four years, cybercriminals have made large profits by selling stolen gaming accounts and in-game items. Cybercriminals quickly realized that what started as a niche activity was actually a significant source of profit.

“Online gaming has evolved into a fully-fledged economy with well-developed demand, specific customer requirements and different sectors, including ‘premium’. Trading in-game objects is now an essential part of any game in itself”, - affirms Christian Funk. – “Game developers by no means neglect this market and are constantly busy developing new updates and extensions that include new tradable items. It therefore comes as no surprise that fraud and overtly deceiving online gamers has long since become popular among cybercriminals”.

Sending phishing emails is an old technique used by cybercriminals to gain access to account data. This technique hasn't altered much over the years. Phishing emails used to be easy to detect due to numerous spelling and grammatical errors. However, cybercriminals have now resolved this issue and even security-aware recipients could be fooled by today's phishing emails. In recent years, cybercriminals have focused their efforts on upgrading the quality of their phishing attacks, rather than simply increasing the number of phishing emails sent. As a result, both the appearance and content have markedly improved.

Another gaming threat tool, the Trojan, is now designed to harvest login credentials from different games. As online gaming platforms are installed on only a small proportion of all computers worldwide, targeting more than one game at a time increases the chances of success several times over. This type of malware is called Trojan-GameThief.Win32.OnLineGames; Kaspersky Lab had 1.2 million records for such malware as of 10th August 2010.

A look at the geographical distribution of attempted attacks using gaming malware shows that these programs are particularly widespread in Asia. The current trend regarding gaming threats is downward. In the second half of 2009 the online gaming underground market became saturated and the seller’s market quickly became a buyer’s market. Vendors of stolen goods found themselves locked into a price war in order to get rid of their goods, resulting in plummeting prices. Nevertheless, attacks using gaming malware still number 3.4 million every day, a very high number, which means that gamers remain at risk. However, the underground economy is likely to revive in the near future due to game and expansion pack releases such as "Cataclysm“ for World of Warcraft and Diablo 3.

The full version of “The Underground Economy of Online Gaming Fraud” is available at: