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 Mugging ? on a Massive Virtual Scale

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Date posted: 18/08/2005

A chinese exchange student has been arrested in Japan on suspicion of carrying out a mugging spree within the virtual gameworld Lineage 2.

The young man utilised bot characters ? artificial intelligence controlled characters ? to mass attack player characters within the world, and strip them of all valuable objects, which were immediately sold for their substantial cash value. Because the assailants were bots, they were equipped with superhuman reflexes, making them essentially unbeatable.

How many such muggings were actually carried out is unclear, but with a single rare item potentially fetching ?400 or more ($800us), the potential for him to have made a fortune rises very quickly.

The items were fenced through a Japanese auction website, according to NCsoft, the company behind Lineage 2.

By performing tasks within the world at high speed, repetitively for hours on end, a bot can easily far exceed any human player in proficiency at a given skill. This unfair advantage can then be used by a player with a moral vacuum to prey on the weaker human minds.

Bruce Schneier, a renowned computer security expert, stated that the distinction between physical and virtual crime is rapidly disappearing. He points to recent reports of crooks trying to hack into gameworlds or steal players account information to make cash.

"I regularly say that every form of theft and fraud in the real world will eventually be duplicated in cyberspace," Schneier wrote on his weblog. "Perhaps every method of stealing real money will eventually be used to steal imaginary money, too."

There are also reports that some online scammers are using ?sweatshops? in countries such as China and Indonesia in which people monitor teams of bots in order to generate money whilst avoiding bot traps.

See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com

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