Police in Finland are investigating roughly 400 unusual cases of theft involving virtual furniture and items taken from the online world of Habbo.
Detective Sergeant Mark Levonen said several Habbo users contacted police earlier this year to report the theft of various virtual items. The thieves apparently use fake websites to capture user names and passwords, then log into the game and transfer the items to other accounts. Some users valued their lost items at well over $1200 in total.
"Habbo as a virtual world is targeted by thieves from all over the world," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at Finnish internet security firm F-Secure. "We've seen Dutch hackers, Italians, Russians and others, and have investigated some of these cases previously with the company that runs Habbo."
Habbo, previously known as Habbo Hotel, launched in 2000 and attracts roughly eight million unique visitors each month. The virtual world, which is actually a collection of several "localized communities" serving different areas of the world, is aimed squarely at teenagers and an estimated 90 percent of its users are between the ages of 13 and 18. This isn't the first time Habbo has been at the center of a real-world police investigation: In late 2007 a Dutch teen was arrested for stealing over $5800 worth of virtual property.
"We see malicious attacks and trojans stealing accounts for all the games you can imagine, including World of Warcraft, FarmVille and so on. Poker games, for example, are susceptible to trojans which share you cards with other players around the table," Hypponen said. "When the TV stars play poker online, we're talking potential losses of hundreds of thousands of euros."
Levonen said that police have performed "five home searches in five cities in Finland" and the investigation is ongoing.