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Virtual Exchanges Get Real

A virtual heist in Second Life spurs some community members to call for oversight and regulationmaybe even the real world kindof virtual stock markets

In late July, a perpetrator with privileged information hacked into a stock exchange's computers, made false deposits, then ran off with what appears to be the equivalent of $10,000, disappearing into thin air. Despite the seemingly small haul, this heist left investors feeling outraged and vulnerable.

Oh, yes…none of this transpired in the real world. The robbery took place in Second Life, an online virtual world created by Linden Lab. Residents of this realm can take on any name and persona they choose, then wander about in the form of cartoon-like avatars. There are virtual companies courting their business, and some of them are listed on virtual stock exchanges where their shares are bought and sold by avatars with "Linden Dollars" and other virtual currencies.