Cyber Criminals Start With Petty Thefts In Online Games Like ‘World Of Warcraft,’ Britain’s Cyber Chief Says

The director of Britain’s National Cyber Crime Unit of the National Crime Agency indicated that young people are increasingly drawn into serious cyber crimes after perpetrating petty thefts within online video games such as World of Warcraft.

Dr. Jamie Saunders, the director of the NCA’s cyber crime division, told The Independent that every “criminal has to have that moment when they start” down that path and for some, it’s “cheating” in online games.

“Any criminal has to have that moment when they start that path […] There are some sorts of criminality that youngsters don’t think of as serious. Stealing gold off each other in online games, cheating if you like. It would be hard to imagine a knock on the door from a policeman because you’ve stolen a sword off your friend in World of Warcraft.”

Saunders indicated that research on the backgrounds of cyber criminals has indicated that it does begin with “play: stealing swords and gold in online games,” Press Association reported via Yahoo! News. He went on to say that the second conclusion drawn “is the lack of awareness of the social cost of something that is criminal.”

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World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) made by Blizzard Entertainment. The game, which is the fourth released in the Warcraft universe, was created in 2004. The first Warcraft game, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, was released ten years prior in 1994.

WoW, which had over 10 million subscribers as of November, 2014, was designed by Rob Pardo, Jeff Kaplan, and Tom Chilton. It runs on the Microsoft Windows and OS X platforms. The game holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG based on the number of subscribers. In January of 2014, it was announced that over 100 million accounts had been created in the lifetime of the game.

Dr. Saunders indicated that an examination of those on a particular criminal path could assist with early intervention. He explained that these type of criminals, cyber criminals, can inflict “a great deal of damage, but not in a traditional criminal way.” He went on to say that such crimes can begin on a small scale and escalate to serious cyber crimes. He indicated that those who wind up perpetrating thefts in such games are often not motivated by money, but instead the challenge or an inclination to experiment, and that some of those involved don’t always realize that what they are doing might actually be illegal.

A new breed of young computer experts who offer specialized criminal services have stepped into the void ahead of traditional criminal gangs, according to Saunders, who cited the case of a 17-year-old who had plead guilty back in December to charges of money laundering and computer offenses following a cyber-attack on a Dutch e-mail spam filtering service which attempts to thwart spammers pushing counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other scams. The teen offered tools for sale which led to one of the world’s biggest online attacks and the proceeds were in the tens of thousands of pounds in monthly revenue. The boy is scheduled for sentencing later in the year.

The NCCU was involved in an FBI-led operation in 2014 which was intended to break the Gameover Zeus virus which was responsible for the infection of millions of computers. While the cyber crime, which generated millions with ransomware, was broken up by authorities, The Independent reported that some of its organizers are thought to be plotting their next scam.

In other cyber crime news reported on Inquisitr, the United States knew North Korea was the culprit in the Sony hack because the NSA hacked North Korea first.

Are you surprised to find Britain’s cyber crime director implicating theft in online games as the breeding grounds from which serious cyber criminals are born?

[Image via Flickr]