Cyber crime on Second Life

27/06/2007 Written by Boris Mutina (minor)

 Peo­ple often see every­day life as a real chal­lenge: leav­ing the bed and going to the office could be even unbear­able, so that some­one could choose not to go out at all and meet friends, go shop­ping, make money on Sec­ond Life.

For those who are not usual Sec­ond Life– goers: Sec­ond Life is 3D vir­tual world. You can join it, cre­ate your new per­son­al­ity and your new phys­i­cal aspect, walk, fly, have fun with friends… you can buy a land, and you can also make vir­tual money that you can then trans­fer to real money. Online…

As Sec­ond Life cre­ators at Lin­den­Lab stated on SL home­page: “there are as many oppor­tu­ni­ties for inno­va­tion and profit in Sec­ond Life as in the Real World. Open a night­club, sell jew­elry, become a land spec­u­la­tor”. Impor­tance of SL was soon under­stood by many. Just two exam­ples for all: Swe­den opened a vir­tual embassy and Microsoft pro­moted Visual Stu­dio in SL.

Talk­ing about busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties we point out, in gen­eral, that big Com­pa­nies basi­cally pro­mote their prod­ucts in SL, whereas small com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als tries to do busi­ness in the vir­tual world so to earn real money.

Unfor­tu­nately, for any vir­tual or real occa­sion to make money, there is a crim­i­nal look­ing for the method to take advan­tage of it by all means.
So it can hap­pen that if you work as a designer and you sell your cre­ations in SL, you could see all your works stolen and sold by some­one else in some other cor­ner of Sec­ond Life.

In such case you can block this crime by ask­ing SL to ban the thief from the vir­tual com­mu­nity, and then suing him or her for vio­lat­ing copy­right laws. The main dif­fi­culty in a sim­i­lar case, any­way, is to dis­cover the crime and its per­pe­tra­tor since SL is com­posed by 8 mil­lions of users and the com­mu­nity keeps grow­ing. This means that you could never real­ize that some­one else was exploit­ing your work.

Sim­i­lar risks aren’t the only ones con­veyed by SL’s width. Just imag­ine this sce­nario: vir­tual real estate agency offers a lot of land which could be pretty expen­sive for nor­mal users. There is one user who can buy the land and will make the pay­ment by trans­fer­ring vir­tual money which would be then changed into real money. But since mov­ing big amounts of money could be risky, the trans­ac­tion would be frag­mented into many small money-​transfers. Huge amounts of money moved from a user to another, in small and appar­ently innocu­ous rates…a good medium for money laun­der­ing or ter­ror­ists’ found rais­ing.

Iden­tity stealth is another prob­lem, which has been already dis­cov­ered in Sec­ond Life. It has been already reported by a blog­ger who described what hap­pened to a sec­ond life player who was swin­dled in a real estate deal by some­one who had stolen another play­ers iden­tity for a Pay-​Pal trans­ac­tion. The par­tial or full degree of anonymity offered by SL, can be a lurk also for other crimes whose motif is not mak­ing money. How would you avoid sex­ual child abuse in SL? It can remain undis­cov­ered like it hap­pens now on the Inter­net, where only groups of “inter­ested peo­ple” can get the access to hid­den places, pro­tected by effec­tive pass­words, where pedo-​pornographic mate­r­ial is dis­played.

Ger­man TV broad­casted a Reportage show­ing how a group of pedophiles paid for hav­ing vir­tual sex with vir­tual chil­dren. Accord­ing to law, child pornog­ra­phy is pun­ished with jail and also at Lin­den Lab, SL cre­ator, stated that they have zero tol­er­ance for child Pornog­ra­phy, offer­ing full col­lab­o­ra­tion to detect the per­pe­tra­tors of sim­i­lar crimes.

To solve the prob­lem on ” how it is pos­si­ble to com­mit a vir­tual rape” a Bel­gian court in Brus­sels , involved in a trial against a man accused of vir­tual pae­dophilia , started coop­er­a­tion with the Fed­eral Com­puter Crime Unit.

So many abuses high­light the num­ber of pos­si­bil­i­ties given by SL to live a vir­tual exis­tence, not only for com­mon users but also for cyber crim­i­nals. A spe­cific Abuse team has been set up to ban mali­cious users but it’s still not enough. Like in the case reported by Ger­man TV, the only chance to dis­cover and wipe off this kind of crimes is to count on the help of other users.

But once crim­i­nals are caught? A spe­cific reg­u­la­tion defin­ing what is allowed and what is not in the vir­tual world, is strongly needed.

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