You may have heard of the saying “wherever there is muck there is money”. Now this appears to have been given a face over and we can say that “wherever there is asteroid dust there is money”.

In a BBC report, and in the Independent, last week it was reported that a gamer has made a very tidy profit on the sale of some real estate. The difference being that this property was actually an asteroid they bought in a virtual world. The entrepreneur bought the asteroid 6 years ago for £56,200 and has now sold this virtual real estate for £395,000. They estimate that they have made a yearly profit of £125,000. This puts to shame my own efforts at property investment as shown on Homes Under the Hammer earlier this year.

Information Security Insight

I have been working on the information security challenges within the virtual economies for some time. This case is a great illustration of one of the challenges being faced by gamers, games providers and the overall industry.

With profits like these the virtual world will provide an attractive target for cyber criminals. Especially if the information security controls in place are not sufficiently robust enough. All participants whether gamers, providers and the industry itself will soon have to ask serious questions about how information security could, if not handled properly within the different online gaming environments, damage the game integrity,  game experience and subsequently the user experience and industry revenues.

Likelihood

Farfetched? No. Earlier this year the media reported on a couple who almost found their home sold from under their feet by criminals who stole their identity, exploiting vulnerabilities in the system for recording and demonstrating ownership and buying and selling property. For several years gamers have been exploiting vulnerabilities to conduct online theft of other gamer’s assets. The developing market for virtual currency, most recently highlighted by Tesco’s decision to join in and start selling currency, provides, in my opinion, an even stronger illustration of the potential and growth of the virtual economy and as such acts as a motivation for cyber criminals.

Food for Thought

Just what measures are in place to protect gamer’s identities and their online assets. What entitles a gamer to say they own a piece of real estate or anything else within the online world? What due diligence is conducted to ensure they own what they are trying to sell? What vulnerabilities exist in these processes? How can they be exploited? What will be the impact on gamers, providers and the industry of not developing an environment where information security is given due consideration?

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