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This article was published on June 1, 2010

Virtual thefts from the Habbo Hotel spark real-world investigation.

Virtual thefts from the Habbo Hotel spark real-world investigation.

What is the cost of a virtual world?  According to an article from the BBC, it’s climbing every day.

Users of The Habbo Hotel, a virtual hotel where users can meet up and purchase goods from one another, have been the victims of some rather severe phishing schemes lately.  So severe, in fact, that the Finnish police are now involved and are investigating some 400 cases with losses numbering into the thousands of Euros.

Sulake, the company that owns the Habbo Hotel, has dug in to find some several hundred users who have compromised accounts.  The company, as well as investigators, attributes the compromise to phishing schemes.

But the issue goes far beyond the hotel, and way outside of Finland as well.  US security company Symantec published a report just last week stating that it had found some 44 million stolen gaming credentials in a single database.

In times past, issues with stolen accounts weren’t addressed by authorities.  Most currency was virtual, and so real-world losses amounted only to time.  However, as more sites move toward microtransactions for funding, we’re seeing a rise in brick and mortar prosecution for such actions.

According to Mikko Hypponen, a researcher at F-Secure, the phishing schemes are becoming more and more detrimental to real world money.

“Poker games for example are susceptible to trojans which share your cards with other players around the table.  When the TV stars play poker online, we’re talking potential losses of hundreds of thousands of euros.”

There is no doubt that security is moving into the forefront for those of us who find our entertainment on the Internet.  We can’t stress enough the importance of using a secure, up-to-date browser that includes protection against phishing and spoofing attacks.