Threat Management, Threat Management

Cyber cartels launder money via gamer currencies

Trend Micro researchers found that cyber criminals are using video game currency to launder real world money.

Cybercriminals often steal the currency from other users or obtain it by exploiting bugs and loopholes within the game and then sell it to legitimate users so that the laundered money can then be used to buy even more gamer currency to sell, to cash out for real-world expenses, or to fund criminal activities, according to an Oct. 12 blog post.

“The most surprising [thing] is how they are able to obtain the gaming currency in the first place using a variety of methods outside of actually playing the game,” Trend Micro Director of Global Threat Communications Jon Clay told via emailed comments. “Also that there are a lot of gamers out there who purchase this currency from sellers not realizing that they could be buying from cybercriminals to fund their other criminal activities.”

Clay said the advantages of using video game currency are that it is an easy way to obtain real money and since buying and selling the gaming currencies is legal, it's difficult to arrest them for this aspect of their activities.

The gamer currencies are advertised and sold on online websites that offer an experience similar to shopping websites and the payments are converted into cryptocurrency to make it untraceable.

Researchers said the proliferation and continued operation of the criminals indicates that their exploits are a very lucrative and sustainable revenue stream which creates concern as the money may be lining the pockets of cyber crooks to fund malicious attacks.

Fortunately, vendors are working on ways to ensure their games aren't compromised and are using methods such as two–factor authentication to ensure the integrity of their products, Clay said.  

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