FBI Hunting Down World Of Warcraft Gold Farmers?

from the that'll-keep-us-safe dept

Just as the World Bank has put out an entire research report about the economics of virtual gold farmers (they claim it's a $3 billion plus industry, and has substantial impact on developing economies), it appears that the FBI is taking an interest in the practice as well. Just last month, the FBI apparently raided a Michigan home in search of virtual World of Warcraft gold. The university students who lived in the raided apartment claim that the FBI targeted the wrong place, and say that neither of them play World of Warcraft, but all of their computer equipment was seized. There aren't full details on the warrant, but the accusation suggests that there was some sort of virtual gold buying and selling fraud going on. I recognize these things can happen for quite a bit of money, but is this really the best use of the FBI's time?


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    The eejit (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 1:28am

    Yes because they're not real people, like corporations. They're pixels.

     

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    vbevan (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 2:37am

    Details?

    A little dangerous to comment without all the details isn't it? To put another spin on it, in the other direction to this article:

    "FBI raids wrong house looking for WoW gold farmers. The intended targets had opened multiple fraudulent bank accounts in order to scam people attempting to buy the online currency."

    While only virtual, the 'Gold' still equates to hours spent performing a task. And in any case, who cares how the fraud is being committed. That's kind of missing the forest for the trees isn't it? Even if the only fraud is on the bank accounts being opened, that's still a fairly serious crime, given the various uses for fake accounts.

    The only way this might be a worthwhile piece is if the raid was done at the behest of Blizzard. If not, this is exactly what the FBI is paid to do. Who do you want to investigate what is probably national, if not international, fraud? The local PD?

     

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    ECA (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 2:50am

    Can I suggest something?

    Trades of virtual merchandise for REAL?

    Isnt that what the banks do?
    I do believe the same thing happened to the market. And how many of the hundreds involved were SACKED or ARRESTED?

    Until you can ENFORCE making MONEY from MONEY profiteering ILLEGAL I see no problem as long as there is SOMETHING traded besides MONEY.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:36am

      Re: Can I suggest something?

      Maybe if I take ARBITRARY words and hit CAPSLOCK on my KEYBOARD I can sound LIKE I have an AGENDA.

      Dude, it makes your fucking sentences unreadable. I can't even tell what you're ranting about because I imagine a midget jumping on a table and screaming out the words you have in capital letters. Just so you know, whatever point you actually had there was wasted on me. Maybe someone without a midget fixation can figure it out. Fucking stop it retard.

       

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        ECA (profile), Apr 30th, 2011 @ 6:55am

        Re: Re: Can I suggest something?

        Since you are not willing to interpret common American English i will write this in a fashion you claim is correct.

        There was more Fraud in what the corps and banks did, then these folks ever did.

        And Few if any are arrested.

        Until you force a law about making money from money, there is no fraud. when such is created, then 1/2 the stock market can be jailed. Making a law about Money only being able to purchase hard physical products would be wonderful.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 8:38am

      Re: Can I suggest something?

      This makes me think of the Menergy energy drink commercials on youtube. your BABIES will RUN as fast as KENYANS!

       

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 2:55am

    In search of virtual World of Warcraft gold

    Yeah, we turned that place upside down. Drawers emptied, mattress flipped over, took all the books off the shelf and flipped through the pages... nothing.

    Searched the suspects, too. Nothing but regular American money in their wallets. They said something about not playing World of Evercraft or whatever, but we took their computers just in case. The boys at the lab will disassemble those in case there's gold somewhere inside the cases or monitors or the floppy disks or something.

     

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      Chargone (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 3:04am

      Re: In search of virtual World of Warcraft gold

      fun fact: if you disasemble and melt down a PC there actually IS gold in there.

      about five cents worth*, but hey, it's gold.

      *can't remember if this is US or NZ cents, but still.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 8:28am

        Re: Re: In search of virtual World of Warcraft gold

        RAM usually has gold on the RAM to motherboard contact points.

         

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    Hiiragi Kagami (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 3:28am

    I feel sorry for the Leprechauns out there who are amassing their gold at the end of rainbows.

    Soon, we'll all see MIB sliding down rainbows to raid them, too.

    Should prove to be an interesting sight.

     

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    ChunkyVomit, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 3:43am

    I think the FBI has more to worry about than WoW gold. Seriously, let Blizzard handle the problem if they feel they ought to.

     

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      feral druish prince, Apr 30th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

      Good luck with that!

      My account was recently frozen by blizz for supposed gold farming/trading. The funny thing is...That account was inactive for a year! I decided to restart my subscription to visit some friends I met while playing WoW only to discover this. It took two weeks and a demand for them to show me evidence of this before they unfroze my account. Made me say to hell with you and decide to not give them any more of my money. 2 yrs. of leveling toons gone.....want to buy an account?

       

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    Rex Mitchell (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 3:49am

    Well...

    I guess if they believe that gold farming is funding terrorism then I'd understand it (but wouldn't that be homeland security?).

     

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    Michael, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 4:04am

    They did find...

    They did find 15 bottles of Mountain Dew - which they turned over to the TSA as "suspect".

    They too have decided to focus their searches on liquids not contained in plastic bags.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 4:46am

    Note that WoW gold farmers no longer really farm gold. The trend now is to hack people's account and steal their gold. They hack people's accounts with a combination of malware and phishing. There's a reason why Blizzard now sells security dongles at a loss and provides a free app available on smart phones that allow them to function as dongles.

     

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    tuna, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 4:59am

    One thing the gold farmers do is hack accounts to create characters to spam about selling gold ingame.

    They not only hack your account, which contains your credit card info, they can also leave exploits on your PC.

    These are both federal crimes.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:10am

      Re:

      I don't see how the can crack (not hack) your account, unless you give them your credentials, either willingly or unliwingly (phishing). Or maybe you have a weak password?

      Also, I don't see how they can deploy malware into your PC through the game. If they can, then maybe we should be more concerned about the security level of the game client itself.

      (PS: not saying it isn't a crime. I'm just wondering about the accuracy of your statements.)

      (PPS: One final point: these scammers and crackers exist because there is a market. Like spam, if people ignored them, they would go away. But for some reason, people have this incredible urge to spend their hard earned money on virtual game money, which you can easily acquire IN THE GAME ITSELF by stomping random critters.)

       

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        DCX2, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:20am

        Re: Re:

        Time is money. If you work for one hour and make $20, and you can make, say, 20 gold in an hour of stomping random critters, but some gold farmer only takes 30 minutes to make 30 gold (say, because he has better weapons), and he then sells it to you for $20...that's economically rational.

        And I see absolutely no reason why anyone should care about gold farming. Gold farmers are compensating for the developer's market failure, which is the inability to provide the rational economic choice above.

         

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        tuna, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:23am

        Re: Re:

        I'm far from a novice with 40 years in the computer business. I had a strong password and I don't fall for phishing.

        I do have a habit of reporting gold spammers ingame which requires clicking on their characters name and I wonder if there is some macro these people are using.

        My son and I both had problems the same day, 90 miles apart with my PC his Mac. We do not know each others passwords and we rarely exchange emails.

        WOW is quick to stop these people by freezing you acccount. Neither of us has had credit card problems and that info has now been deleted and replaced with time cards.

         

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        vbevan (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:24am

        Re: Re:

        Maybe they don't want to spend hours grinding for gold? If they want to spend their money doing that, on something they enjoy, what's the issue?

        And the fact that their is a market doesn't make it right for crackers and scammers to abuse said market.

         

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        universal remonster (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        One thing that is big in Warcraft is community made mods to things like the UI. What the hackers do is create some sort of mod, add a keylogger, and post it for download on the popular mod sites. Although in the game you can choose for it to save your username so the only thing you need to type is your password (which only gives them half of what they need) a lot of people apparently don't do this and end up typing account name and password. A week or so later they sign into a naked character and no gold.

         

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        Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 8:53am

        Re: Re:

        Never played WOW, never will. But have played other MMOs (no, I don't buy gold). I'm sure the tactics are the same regardless of game, though.

        I don't see how the can crack (not hack) your account, unless you give them your credentials, either willingly or unliwingly (phishing). Or maybe you have a weak password?

        Have the user create an account on the gold farming website, let them create their own account name and password, make them provide email, and their character name. Many will use the same account/password as their game account.

        Also, I don't see how they can deploy malware into your PC through the game.

        Don't need to deploy through the game - use any of the dozens of browser exploits on the gold farming website. Or put an add-on to the game client on one of the popular sites.

         

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      DCX2, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:15am

      Re:

      The logic of "a criminal sometimes does X, so we're going to treat everyone who does X as a criminal" is terrible.

      We already have laws against hacking. Use those to prosecute gold farmers who have hacked accounts. Even if these guys are just gold farmers (an allegation as yet unproven), then it's a complete waste of federal taxpayer dollars at a time when we should not be wasting such money.

       

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        vbevan (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:26am

        Re: Re:

        A little dangerous to comment without all the details isn't it? To put another spin on it, in the other direction to this article:

        "FBI raids wrong house looking for WoW gold farmers. The intended targets had opened multiple fraudulent bank accounts in order to scam people attempting to buy the online currency."

        While only virtual, the 'Gold' still equates to hours spent performing a task. And in any case, who cares how the fraud is being committed. That's kind of missing the forest for the trees isn't it? Even if the only fraud is on the bank accounts being opened, that's still a fairly serious crime, given the various uses for fake accounts.

        The only way this might be a worthwhile piece is if the raid was done at the behest of Blizzard. If not, this is exactly what the FBI is paid to do. Who do you want to investigate what is probably national, if not international, fraud? The local PD?

        Why is everyone assuming the FBI are after them for the farming anyway?

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:37am

        Re: Re:

        its not about tax payers dollars so much as its about protecting Blizzard's business model.

         

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    Frankz (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:00am

    This isn't about the actual gold farming/buying/selling, but about the money transfers this can allow, and subsequently a hunt for terrorist suspects using it for such.
    Read this ComputerWorld article. It talks about a Canadian study from a couple years ago that mentions this, as well as a US Intelligence agency reports mentioning the same thing.

    Whether this is really a valid conern is a different story.

     

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    deathsbedbug (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:21am

    Runescape Funds China Gangs

    I don't know about world of warcrack, but Runescape had issues where chinese gangs were farming gold and selling it for real world money to fund their gangs. They made drastic changes to the game to try to eliminate the problem, but have since undone many of those changes and now the bots are back in full force. So there is some merit in investigating it, but they should have more evidence than what they did in this case.

     

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    vbevan (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:26am

    So it's not a crime?

    A little dangerous to comment without all the details isn't it? To put another spin on it, in the other direction to this article:

    "FBI raids wrong house looking for WoW gold farmers. The intended targets had opened multiple fraudulent bank accounts in order to scam people attempting to buy the online currency."

    While only virtual, the 'Gold' still equates to hours spent performing a task. And in any case, who cares how the fraud is being committed. That's kind of missing the forest for the trees isn't it? Even if the only fraud is on the bank accounts being opened, that's still a fairly serious crime, given the various uses for fake accounts.

    The only way this might be a worthwhile piece is if the raid was done at the behest of Blizzard. If not, this is exactly what the FBI is paid to do. Who do you want to investigate what is probably national, if not international, fraud? The local PD?

    Why is everyone assuming the FBI are after them for the farming anyway?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:36am

    Amurika, fuck yeah?

     

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    wnyght (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:45am

    this is too simple to explain

    Once again, all one has to do is ask who is making money, or who is loosing it/ not making it. In this case, people are openly making money and more than likely not paying an income tax on it. Don't forget the world we live in in the grand old U.S. of A. Your money is taxed when you earn it, taxed when you spend it, and taxed when you save it. Lovely, isn't it?

     

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    Starman, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:54am

    Gold farming in WoW has not been economically viable for anyone doing it the old fashion legal way since the days of Vanilla wow.

     

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    halley (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 5:58am

    I used to work in the games industry, on one of the earliest "massively multiplayer" online worlds. Gold farming was just hobby grade. Nowadays, the currency speculation and escrow management for such transactions is pretty sophisticated. Cory Doctorow took it one all-too-believable step further, in his fictional account of gold farming as a global organized labor movement in his story, "For The Win." Also of interest to Techdirt: all his e-books are basically copyleft-- read it for free and then decide if/how you want to support his craft.

     

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    Beta (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 6:19am

    you can't get away from economics

     

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    Matt R, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 6:21am

    Did I Miss Something?

    Maybe I missed something, but why were they raiding a home for virtual goods stored on computers, computers at WoW data center?

     

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      John Doe, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 6:58am

      Re: Did I Miss Something? Yes - You and Mke Missed Fraud

      I suppose if you don't believe in IP property or the rule-of-law like "silly" Mike, you can't complain when people steal your virtual property.

      Someone should steal this domain name and see how "silly," name-calling Mike likes it.

       

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        Matt R, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:17am

        Re: Re: Did I Miss Something? Yes - You and Mke Missed Fraud

        By no means am I ignoring that portion of this story. I agree they comitted fraud, and I would have no problem had they been arrested. I was just wondering why they needed to seize their PCs if WoW is centrally hosted in some data warehouse, not on WoW users' computers -- I just figured they could have gotten all the info they need from the Blizard server, and then arrested these people.

         

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          Jon B. (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:19am

          Re: Re: Re: Did I Miss Something? Yes - You and Mke Missed Fraud

          If I stole money from you on the promise of farming WOW gold for you, chances are I put the money in my bank account after communicating with you via email. The evidence of this is most likely on my computer.

           

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          HarryR, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:54am

          Re: Re: Re: Did I Miss Something? Yes - You and Mke Missed Fraud

          Just guessing here, but they can probably see the end results of the hacking on the WoW servers, but were probably looking for the tools/programs they used to do the actual hack on their desktops.

           

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        Floyd (profile), Apr 29th, 2011 @ 7:39pm

        Re: Re: Did I Miss Something? Yes - You and Mke Missed Fraud

        I don't believe in imaginary property, but I do believe that theft (of actual money) and fraud are wrong. Perhaps if you understood the distinction between imaginary and real property, you could distinguish between fraud and IP infringement.

         

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    Jeff, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    "using fraudulent bank accounts"

    It sounds like the concern here is bank and/or CC fraud. The wow gold is probably just the merchandise

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 6:50am

    Common sense has been sucked out of law enforcement, and the lack of it is a prerequisite for FBI employment.

    If the FBI is involved, its probably because lower level law enforcement has their hands tied with tedious issues concerning the legality of confiscating computers..etc. Since the FBI is above the law, they get called in to handle questionable seizures.

     

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      Jon B. (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:16am

      Re:

      I think in this case it was interstate fraud, so that's why it goes straight to the FBI and not lower level law enforcement.

      Yes, it's retarded to give someone money to farm WOW gold for you. But it's still illegal to take someone's money for a service you never intend to perform. Do it enough times to people in various states and guess who you get a visit from....

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 6:52am

    FBI: Spending fake money to stop the stealing of fake money.

     

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    Captain Jack Sparrow, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 6:53am

    Well Matey...

    I don't know about you... but I get a warm and cuddling knowing that the FBI is going after all of these virtual gold pirates!

    ...and really bad eggs...

     

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    Jon B. (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:13am

    Yes, I would say that interstate fraud (involving real money) is probably within the FBI's jurisdiction.

    Best use of their time? Hell if I know what their case priority is, but it sounds like it's not someone else's jurisdiction...

     

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    Chrissy, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:27am

    New account password strategy

    http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/Security-by-PostIt.aspx

    The key point is to make passwords that people cannot memorize and therefore have to put a post-it note on their monitor with the password :) That will sure stop wow account hackers!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    Dial 911!! My dog in fable 2 is lost!!

     

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    fibo3 (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 7:53am

    You must really pity the FBI. Imagine your fresh out of college, go through all that training, and are excited to stop all that "important" crime. Instead of doing the hard work and going after "organized crime", they start to arrest and seize computers from kids that use play money. How far have they fallen? They don't even question the legality of their actions, just take the candy from the baby and claim victory. One used to look up to them, once upon a time. Now they have turned themselves into thugs that people fear. WoW money? Try looking at Wall Street you fools.

     

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    fibo3 (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    I forgot, if they go to Wall Street that would require work. Against people that can fight back, better stick to the weak people that can't fight back.

    Here is one. You know who should fear the FBI, the rich and powerful that go "native". Nothing against the rich, but the FBI should be there to insure they got it and keep it, legitimately. CEO's should think twice about shenanigans they might pull. But now, kids playing games fear them more than CEO's that control an Economy.

    FBi trolls, wouldn't you agree?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 8:26am

    If you can't catch real criminals .... go after fake ones.

     

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    Mike42 (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 8:32am

    Reading Comprehension

    Gals and Guys,

    The FBI did not raid this place because they feel that gold farming is wrong. They raided the place because there were reports that in-game gold was being bought using hacked/fraudulent bank accounts and sold again, AKA money laundering. Check the game-pron link.

     

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      Jon B. (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 10:23am

      Re: Reading Comprehension

      Marking this one "insightful" and hopefully enough people will catch on.

      Mike took the sensationalist route on this one.

      Yes, interstate fraud/hacking is well within FBI jurisdiction.

      Yes, executing a warrant to find evidence stored on a computer is reasonable when the crime involved communication on said computer and/or hacking.

      Yes, it's perfectly reasonable for the accused to say "but I don't even play WOW" when they're being accused of fraud in the first place. I don't have to play WOW to defraud people of money on the promise of WOW gold.

      I've never seen so many otherwise smart people go functionally retarded in one thread.

       

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    FBI == Federal Bureau of Idiots (and asshats)

    You'd think that the FBI would spend our tax dollar$ on chasing and catching real criminals, who are a material danger to our community. This just shows how media and content "providers" have corrupted the system to their own ends, because their business models suck eggs.

     

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    ScytheNoire (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 9:26am

    They've solved all other crimes

    This is just proof of how effective the FBI is. They've solved all other crime problems, caught all the serial killers, and the TSA is catching all the terrorists. So they really don't have much more to do than stop virtual criminals on the internet. Good job FBI on ending crime in the United States.

     

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    BleedFootball, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    Funny title

    Wow, read the title and kind lol'd but anyways why are the FBI bullying these people again? very confused r the "warcraft gamers" doing something illegal..? confused..

     

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    Anonymously Brave, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    If you find someone to earn gold for you in WOW because you just don't have the time, it's called Gold Farming...and is apparently illegal.

    If you find someone to do real-world work for you becuase you just don't have the time, it's called subcontracting.

    If the person you find is in another country, it's called outsourcing.

    ...both of these latter actions are perfectly legal.


    Go figure.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 4:14pm

    Keep Azeroth Safe!
    Most of our policies would probably work better in a fantasy world.

    So which officials kid had their account hacked, and why does that resulted in this raid?

    Oh fake bank accounts and stuff... and they still managed to end up with 2 people who did not have Warcraft accounts.

    As to Warcraft being secure, there are stories out there about the authenticators being hacked, valid or not I can not say. It raises the question of why an online game has a higher bar than the government or banks.

     

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    waylay73 (profile), Apr 28th, 2011 @ 4:18pm

    "If you find someone to earn gold for you in WOW because you just don't have the time, it's called Gold Farming...and is apparently illegal."

    Gold Farming is not illegal. Most online gold sellers use phishing and other cybercrime tactics to steal your logon credentials to the game, and then sell everything in game to collect gold for online sale. Using someones logon credentials to access a system without permission is illegal.

    "Just guessing here, but they can probably see the end results of the hacking on the WoW servers, but were probably looking for the tools/programs they used to do the actual hack on their desktops."

    Nope. The hacking is done via keyloggers on your PC. This is invisible to blizzard. Once the hacker has your credentials from your PC, and uses them to logon, everything looks the same to Blizzard, except for IP address. And unless you have a static IP address that is meaningless. The only thing blizzard can see is in game mods like Glider (previously mentioned on techdirt). But as already stated, all the hacking is outside the game client, so invisible to Blizzard.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    The government has a problem with telling fantasy from reality.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Floyd (profile), Apr 29th, 2011 @ 7:42pm

    Meanwhile, as Rome burns....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    DanR, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 4:44am

    I currently work from home selling export goods, and I think justice needs to be served. FBI wont do that without enough evidence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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