Crime Scene Reconstruction: Online Gold Farming Network Analysis

Hyukmin Kwon, Aziz Mohaisen, Jiyoung Woo, Yongdae Kim, Eunjo Lee, Huy Kang Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Many online games have their own ecosystems, where players can purchase in-game assets using game money. Players can obtain game money through active participation or 'real money trading' through official channels: converting real money into game money. The unofficial market for real money trading gave rise to gold farming groups (GFGs), a phenomenon with serious impact in the cyber and real worlds. GFGs in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are some of the most interesting underground cyber economies because of the massive nature of the game. To detect GFGs, there have been various studies using behavioral traits. However, they can only detect gold farmers, not entire GFGs with internal hierarchies. Even worse, GFGs continuously develop techniques to hide, such as forming front organizations, concealing cyber-money, and changing trade patterns when online game service providers ban GFGs. In this paper, we analyze the characteristics of the ecosystem of a large-scale MMORPG, and devise a method for detecting GFGs. We build a graph that characterizes virtual economy transactions, and trace abnormal trades and activities. We derive features from the trading graph and physical networks used by GFGs to identify them in their entirety. Using their structure, we provide recommendations to defend effectively against GFGs while not affecting the existing virtual ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7727944
Pages (from-to)544-556
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar


  • Online games
  • game bot
  • gold farming group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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