The in-game currency of the massively popular game Fortnite: Battle Royale, V-bucks, is being used to launder money on the dark web.
An investigation by The Independent, along with research by cyber security firm Sixgill, revealed that discounted V-bucks are being sold in large quantities in black markets on the dark web – a hidden section of the internet only accessible using specialist software.
The money laundering operation has also spread to the open web, albeit on a smaller scale, as they were found to have been advertised on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
The investigation found that stolen credit card details are being used to purchase V-bucks from the official Fortnite store. The cybercriminals are then able to “clean” the money by selling the V-bucks a discounted rate to players.
“Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity,” Benjamin Preminger, a senior intelligence analyst at Sixgill, told The Independent.
Preminger added that cybercriminals have been taking full advantage of the weak security measures employed by Fortnite developer Epic Games because “the company doesn’t seem to care about players defrauding the system and purchasing discounted V-bucks.”
Epic Games raked in $3 billion in profit last year, largely because of Fortnite’s overwhelming success. It is unclear how much money cybercriminals have made by exploiting the game however.
This was not the first instance that Fortnite has been used for illegal activities. A separate study by the IT security firm Zerofox found 53 thousand cases of online scams involving the game.
“While completely stopping such criminal activity is extremely difficult, several steps could be taken to mitigate the phenomenon, including monitoring the transfer of high-value goods in the game, identifying players with large stockpiles of V-bucks, and sharing data with relevant law enforcement agencies,” said Preminger.
However, the security expert believes that Epic Games is not doing enough to prevent illegal activity done through its game, which is further necessitated by the fact it is so popular.
“Epic Games doesn’t seem to clamp down in any serious way on criminal activity surrounding Fortnite, money laundering or otherwise,” Preminger added.