Virtual crimes, worldly laws: Russian lawyers mull penalties for stealing game accounts & digital items

Posted on September 18, 2019 1:54 am
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URL https://www.rt.com/russia/469062-online-games-theft-punishment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS 

Hackers and online scammers should think twice before stealing ‘World of Tanks’ armor or ‘Dota 2’ characters from careless gamers – Russian lawyers are readying a heavy-handed crackdown on the practice.

The Moscow branch of Russia’s Bar Association has suggested making the theft of paid accounts and digital goods a criminal offence, local media reported. A game character or a rare item sometimes takes many months and hundreds of dollars to develop, and the loss of what the group calls “a virtual asset” often turns into a little tragedy for avid gamers.

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The news comes as billions of people are spending money on gameplaying, making in-game purchases. In Russia alone, gamers spent a whopping $736 million last year, according to a Superdata survey. 

Many in-game items are being developed and then sold, like in 2013 when a Dota player made history by paying $38,000 for a super-character called ‘Ethereal Flames Pink War Dog.’ But sometimes they are stolen by using basic hacking skills against a user’s gaming account.

Russia’s IT-related media are full of stories about gamers desperately trying to get their stolen accounts or online purchases back with the help of police – but all too often, these appeals are left unanswered or aren’t prosecuted because there are no relevant laws in place.

On one rare occasion, police officers in Nizhny Novgorod made history three years ago, finding a culprit who hacked a ‘World of Tanks’ player and tried to sell his $1,000-worth Panzer on an online forum.  

Now, the Bar Association insists that “virtual assets” be protected by a bill covering digital transactions and cryptocurrencies. If adopted, the legislation would represent a small ray of hope for theft-prone online dwellers in Russia and beyond.

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