A New Frontier in Cybercrime
In the preceding six chapters this research has examined the nature of gambling within MMORPGs, social networking games and virtual world games, and assessed whether there are loopholes in the regulation relating to gameplay but also whether this poses a risk of financial crime. This chapter will consider the actual currencies being used within these games/worlds and whether the currency itself poses an additional risk which regulators, players and society in general should be aware of. The chapter will undertake a review of digital and virtual currencies, tracking their origins and evolution, and also looking at what these currencies can do, and how they are used not only within games/world but also in the real physical world. Areas for regulatory concern will then be considered, as well as the links to gambling in MMORPGs, social networks and virtual worlds. The second part of the chapter will look specifically at Bitcoin, the most notable digital currency currently in circulation, and then go on to consider criminal cases where digital and virtual currencies have been used. In the simplest terms, a digital currency may be described as a currency only available in electronic form: all transactions involve transfers from one account to another and no physical currency is produced. While this distinction between digital and physical currency appears relatively clear-cut, physical currencies in fact are not entirely physical – there is not enough physical currency to match the amount held electronically.
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