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I love computer gaming. In a real sense computer gaming was the driver behind my interest, in the early 1980’s, in becoming computer literate, and then taking that literacy to new levels.

Computer gaming has changed enormously of course from the early 1980’s to the present. The technical changes in both the games themselves, and the platforms the games run on, would have seemed like science fiction viewed from the perspective of the early days.

Online gaming has effectively opened up a whole new world of computer gaming, both literally and figuratively, and has changed the face and the complexities of computer gaming.

Played over the internet, online games allow gamers to become part of a virtual world, consisting of literally millions of players who form online communities with all the associated social aspects of real world communities; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Just as there are crooks and cyber criminals in a real world community, these same type of characters also inhabit the virtual worlds of internet gaming.

You might wonder why virtual reality would mimic real life so closely that it would include virtual criminals. The answer is very simple – money, and lots of it.

In many virtual worlds, virtual currencies are used to purchase virtual possessions. You may be surprised to learn that these virtual possessions have real world value, in real world cash, and as in real life; a market exists for stolen goods in these other worlds.

The first step cyber criminals employ in stripping gamers of their virtual possessions (remember, real world cash), is password theft – an activity that has increased dramatically recently.

Stolen passwords for games such as World of Warcraft and Lineage, are particularly valuable, since in these games it is common for less skilled gamers to buy/pay for the virtual possessions they have been unable to acquire through skilled game play.

Increasingly, the theft of passwords relies on specially designed malware, whose function is to steal online gaming passwords, allowing crooks access to gamers virtual possessions so that these possessions, just as in real life, can be sold.

Explaining just how this works Greg Hoglund, CEO of HBGary, developers of advanced software security technologies says,

“Once a criminal learns a gamer’s username and password, he can log into the game and sell the victim’s virtual possessions for virtual gold coins. Those coins are then handed to another character in the game who sells the gold for real-world dollars at an online exchange such as IGE. IGE operates a network that deals with the legitimate buying and selling of virtual currencies and assets on the internet.

Video gaming companies are now fighting back through the use of authenticators. An authenticator is an electronic device which generates a unique, one-time use password which combined with the user’s regular password provides an increased security level against malicious attacks, including keyloggers and Trojans.

Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind such popular games as World of Warcraft, Lineage, Diablo and StarCraft sells an authenticator for $6.50 USD through the Blizzard online store.

wow password authentication

So, if you are one of the millions of virtual gamers, purchasing an authenticator to help protect your virtual assets, it seems to me, is vital.

If you’re interested in FREE online gaming then check out an excellent article by Simon, one of my fellow writers here on Makeuseof.com – Top Five Free Online Shooter Games Top Five Free Online Shooter Games - Must Read For Gamers Top Five Free Online Shooter Games - Must Read For Gamers Read More .

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