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Worm snaffles online gamers' passwords

Nasty attack of reality

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Players of one fantasy role-playing game Priston Tale1 have suffered a nasty attack of reality after virus writers created a worm programmed to steal their usernames, passwords and data.

The worm - dubbed PrsKey-A - waits for users to enter either Priston Tale or the Yahoo! email system before capturing keystrokes and sending data back to hackers. It is programmed to spread via network shares but other propagation mechanisms, such as tricking fans into downloading the malware, may also be in play.

PrsKey-A hasn't spread much so far so the attack is noteworthy for what it tells us about the motives of virus writers rather than the threat it poses to the average Windows user, which is a lot less than the recent spate of Plug and Play worms, for example. That said, attacks by hackers against Priston Tale users have caused enough problems for administrators running to game to temporarily suspend trading in user accounts. Antivirus experts reckon that the malware is been used to rake in money rather than rack up high scores.

"More malware is being written that not only causes disruption, but also steals registration keys, passwords and data from players of computer games," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "In many cases the virtual weapons, cash and armour needed for such games are then sold in the real world, where there's a growing demand from online gaming fanatics. If gamers buy these virtual goods online they should be careful not to purchase them from internet criminals."

The creation of malware to steal from online games is becoming a growing trend. Other popular multi-player online games whose players have been targeted by viruses and Trojan horses in the past include Lineage, Outwar and Legend of Mir 2. Last month a group of people were arrested in South Korea over allegations that they spread password stealing programs in order to steal the resources of online gamers. ®

1Priston Tale is a 3D fantasy multi-player game which involves fighting monsters and is played online. The game has millions of subscribers across the globe, many of them based in South Korea, where the game originated. Other fans are based in Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand and various English-speaking countries.

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