Item Search
     
BG-Wiki Search
+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 5 1 2 3 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 94
  1. #1

    Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    When is a game "just a game," and when does it become something more? We all come up against this question sooner or later - but no player quite experiences this question like the MMO gamer. And now there's a new question, sharper than the last: When you invest weeks, months, even years into a single game, what happens when someone robs you of your efforts?

    Account theft is not a new phenomenon, but because of the increased monetary value of these accounts - accrued from the labor of honest players - hacking has reached monumental heights.

    Dave Weinstein, formerly of Red Storm fame, now speaks on the huge prevalence of unregulated character theft and the black market sale of virtual goods. Weinstein addressed game developers at Gamefest 2006, warning that organized crime had targeted MMOGs as an easy method of generating cash in a largely unregulated market. Part of the problem is a lack of law enforcement infrastructure in dealing with the value - and following the theft - of virtual property. "The police are really good at understanding 'someone stole my credit card and ran up a lot of money,'" Weinstein said. "It's a lot harder to get them to buy into 'someone stole my magic sword.'"
    image

    Square Enix, at least, hasn't gained much traction on this problem in the last two years. Earlier this year, the company came under heavy fire when thousands of Final Fantasy XI accounts were hacked - stolen from their owners with keyloggers, rapidly stripped of high value items (often totaling in the thousands of dollars for max-level characters) and returned, denuded and worthless, only months later.

    Identity Theft
    Michelle kept detailed notes. She even knows exactly when it all began - August 27, 2005, the day she signed up for Final Fantasy XI. "Like any first-time gamer, I began playing the game a couple hours here and there and maybe a few hours on the weekend," she said. She'd never played an MMOG before.

    "Through time I began to develop friendships and a character that would become as much to me as 'real life' relationships are. The amount of time I devoted went from five or six hours a week to almost 60 to 80 hours a week. When I wasn't playing, I was working or sleeping." It's a familiar story to anyone who has gotten sucked into the world of an online game; a story that, these days, millions of people are experiencing.

    The game became a part of her real-world social life."Often times while at my job on break, I would talk about what we had done the night before. A funny thing is my friends, family and co-workers came to enjoy the tales I would come in to tell," she said. Her character, a Paladin we'll call "Mali," had become as real to her as another side of herself. "Folks who don't play don't understand the amount of work players invest into their characters."

    On December 14, 2007, a hacker broke into Michelle's account and changed all of her personal information: name, location, credit card account. Her virtual identity had been stolen and rewritten. At 9 P.M. when she attempted to log in for an evening's adventure, her username and password failed. "My heart sank a thousand feet," she said. She called up customer service - but it was a Friday night, and Account Services wasn't there.

    There's Nothing We Can Do
    She called again first thing on Monday morning. "They told me if I could not give them the 'current' information on the account, there was nothing they could do." When they asked her how they could be sure she wasn't in fact a hacker trying to break into someone else's account, she argued with passionate logic that if she was a hacker she wouldn't be able to provide her comprehensive account history, including payment records dating back two years. Sorry, Square Enix said - it's Just Against Our Policy.

    Michelle was hardly alone. By the time her account was hacked, thousands of other players had suffered the same fate. Theft victims circulated an online petition to attract Square Enix's attention and recover what they had lost, while the community whispered urban legends of players whose characters were stolen and never returned, sold like abducted children on the black market for real-world cash.
    image

    Michelle frantically scanned these unauthorized auction sites daily, looking for a character that matched Mali's description - a high level paladin worth, according to her research, between $1500 and $2000 in these markets. That estimate didn't even including the huge cache of rare armor Michelle had accumulated and stored in Mali's inventory, collectively valued, she estimates, at well over $5000.

    She started on the white-hat side, looking up contact information for internet lawyers. When she found one, "I explained to [him], if someone stole Yahoo people would have the suits flying. Yahoo isn't a tangible item, and does have value. My character is basically the same thing." But he wasn't interested. "He ... explained there was no one he knew of that even attempted such litigation, and believed it would be fruitless. I was becoming more and more desperate to get help ... or to find someone that would listen and understand."

    When the white hats failed, she turned to other options. "I [started] looking for a hacker to steal the account back," she said. If a hacker had broken into the account in the first place, she reasoned, another person with similar abilities should be able to get it back. And Square Enix clearly didn't have a problem with the hackers doing it. She didn't find one, but she did find Dave Weinstein and his security talks.

    Weinstein counseled her against "stealing" the account back, for legal reasons, and advised her to keep trying with Square Enix - that if she was persistent, customer service would relent and give her account back. "I realized very quickly David did understand how I felt," Michelle said. "Finally, someone who at least cares!"

    Weinstein turned out to be right. In February, nearly three months after Mali and all her holdings were stolen, Square Enix agreed to return Michelle's account. But her digital Odyssey wasn't even close to over.

    No Legal Right
    Even after Square Enix's customer service determined that Michelle was, in fact, the rightful owner of the account, getting Mali back was no simple enterprise. Square Enix's legal office sent her a "Final Fantasy XI Notarized Account Verification Declaration," which she would have to sign, notarize and send back - just to allow for the possibility of reclaiming her account.

    The wording of the declaration, however, made Michelle hesitate, in spite of her desire to get her account back. Most of the language was standard - she was required to state that she was the original owner of the account, it had never been transferred and it had been compromised against her will. But item number seven was a doozy:

    7. I understand that I have no legal right to the return of my compromised PlayOnline account, and that the submission of this signed and notarized form to Square Enix, Inc. is no guarantee that I will obtain a return of this account."

    image

    In order to get her account back, Michelle had to sign a statement that it wasn't legally hers.

    She called another lawyer - this time a friend of the family. His response was sad, but pragmatic: "He said, 'What do you have to lose? You've already the lost the character ... just sign it and hope for the best.' "

    Michelle agreed, signed the form, and shelled out for overnight shipping to El Segundo.

    Victory?
    On February 5, 2008, Michelle got her account back. Before she let herself log on, she took her computer to a repair shop to have it scanned for viruses. They found not one, but 22 unique keylogger viruses. They cleaned up her machine, installed a full battery of protective software and instructed her only to visit protected sites. She brought it home, fired it up, and started playing.

    The damage was severe. "What little money I had was gone, my armor - treasured pieces of armor given to me over the years - gone. I had no shield to use as a paladin, nor money to get another. I was quickly realizing how difficult it would be for me to play with a character not suited to perform." But she had Mali back.

    Three days later, her account was hacked again.

    "I felt defeated, broken," she said. "How could I win, if they could just take it from me whenever they wanted? I'd done everything within my power to protect my account."

    Back to the repair shop Michelle went. "They accused me of going to a page that had the keylogger program. To their surprise, I had not gone anywhere. I had only been on PlayOnline. The store's position was [the hackers] must have hidden it so well their systems didn't locate it [the first time]. They recommended I reformat the hard drive and reinstall everything."

    So she did. And then it was back to Square Enix - where it was back to square one.

    After several more trips through the Customer Service gauntlet, she finally had Mali back again - but when it came time to log back in, she couldn't bring herself to use the account. "Don't get me wrong - there's a side of me that is itching to get back on to game and enjoy it as much as I did. But now there is another side that just can't see putting so much heart and love into something, just to have it ripped away."

    The kicker: Once Michelle's account was restored and attached to her credit card, Square Enix hit her for fees associated with the hacker's invalid credit card number.

    Lessons
    Michelle wants to educate players on how to protect their accounts - and she wants MMOG developers to take responsibility for what they create. "Players need to change their passwords often. Too many times we get used to the 'ease' [with which] games allow us to log on. Companies with online games need to be active. I would think they would be one of the first to hear a rash of accounts are suddenly being taken. They could put up a warning to players to change passwords or at least be aware."

    FFXI actually does this on occasion - but it isn't enough. "They need to have a way where accounts that have been hacked can be locked immediately, until the correct owner is determined. Companies need to use common sense. If they are looking at information changed on an account and it is obviously wrong, it should be addressed immediately."
    image

    "MMO companies need to remember it is the players that makes them exist. I know many players who have told me if their account was stolen, they would quit and never return." And this is, indeed, what a lot of hacked players do - especially the ones who have experiences like Michelle's. Once she had her account back, she petitioned Square Enix to have her stolen items returned. Sorry, they said, it's been too long. Square Enix has a seven-day time limit on the return of stolen online goods.

    Michelle's odyssey brings to mind Julian Dibbell's famous "A Rape in Cyberspace," often cited as a defining moment in the brave new world of online interaction - and as an early stimulus for cyberlaw itself. Dibbell attacked head on the ultimate question at issue here and in all online spaces: is it a crime if it's "just online"? How do we classify Michelle's experience? Was it "just a game"? Was it "theft"? Was it, as it felt to Michelle, "abduction," "robbery" and, ultimately, extortion?

    While we attempt to answer these questions, stretching how far into the realm of the virtual we can extend our real-world ethics, the raw facts are that perceived injury is resulting from this online exploitation. Individuals and institutions in meatspace can, when pressed, parse her financial loss, but not her status as a victim of criminal activity. When the life of a mind takes shape in a society suspended in the ether, where is the ruler for Michelle's injury? Do we mechanically dissect her expansive virtual life experiences, compress them into our worldview and then stretch them against the cold table of our real-life objectivity?

    If we do, is it justice?
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/article ... agic-Sword

  2. #2
    WASTE OF CURRENCY
    I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    9,051
    BG Level
    8
    FFXIV Character
    Izzy Izumi
    FFXIV Server
    Sargatanas
    FFXI Server
    Phoenix
    WoW Realm
    Arthas

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Article pretty much sums it up 100%.

    Although, she was pretty fucking stupid to not have had her PC formatted before reusing it.

  3. #3
    Yoshi P
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    5,492
    BG Level
    8
    FFXI Server
    Leviathan

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    That was actually a pretty interesting read.

  4. #4

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Points for using a word I actually had to look up.

  5. #5
    Ridill
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    9,732
    BG Level
    8
    FFXI Server
    Asura

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    So someone made it public on how bad SEs service support really is. Although SE has been doing kinda good.

  6. #6

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    SE has improved drastically since last year at this time. And they're continuing to improve--I think they're hiring like crazy for the service&support center to reduce phone wait-times, and in the last few months they've implemented a procedure for freezing and recovering compromised accounts.

    Hopefully they keep improving account security and their responsiveness. These things do take time to implement.

  7. #7
    Sea Torques
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    569
    BG Level
    5

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Yea, SE has come a long way since the hackings have started. During the first wave I was talking to a GM as a friends character was hacked during a Faf camp. The GM said there was nothing that could be done and we just had to watch it warp out and go to Whitegate to start sending the items. The account and items were never recovered.

    About 3-4 days ago a different LS member was hacked overnight and the next morning we contacted a GM. The GM asked a series of questions about the account and then was able to freeze it. The next day the account was returned and the owner was told to look it over and see if anything was missing. If stuff was missing it would be rolled back.

    Pretty much felt like we were dealing with 2 different companies.

  8. #8
    Nikkei's Hoe
    Worse than her at uno

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    6,234
    BG Level
    8
    FFXIV Character
    Eanae Hikari
    FFXIV Server
    Gilgamesh
    FFXI Server
    Cerberus
    WoW Realm
    Hyjal

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Three days later, her account was hacked again.
    I feel really bad for loling at this.

  9. #9
    Yoshi P
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    5,492
    BG Level
    8
    FFXI Server
    Leviathan

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Quote Originally Posted by Eanae
    Three days later, her account was hacked again.
    I feel really bad for loling at this.
    Yeah, I kinda did, I mean she took all of these steps to avoid it but missed the most basic one.

  10. #10
    Sea Torques
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    731
    BG Level
    5

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Quote Originally Posted by Therin
    Quote Originally Posted by Eanae
    Three days later, her account was hacked again.
    I feel really bad for loling at this.
    Yeah, I kinda did, I mean she took all of these steps to avoid it but missed the most basic one.
    Yeah, I called that one when I read that she "took her computer to a repair store to have the viruses removed" instead of reformatting it.

  11. #11
    Official THE Alpha and Omega
    Moderator

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    5,898
    BG Level
    8
    FFXI Server
    Bahamut

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    rofl at the Yahoo comparisons.

    Seriously ahahaha

  12. #12
    New Odin
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    8,664
    BG Level
    8
    FFXIV Character
    Sparthia Abysseant
    FFXIV Server
    Excalibur
    FFXI Server
    Lakshmi

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Its good to know that this kinda attack on gamers is at least getting some press and its good that SE at least recognizes the issue as something real but to all those people that are still waiting since the beginning of the RMT march into hacking it all seems fruitless indeed.

    Customer Service is getting better but the lack of weekend service, 3-4hour wait times on the phone (not even toll-free) and constant 'we dont know, just shut up and wait' type mentality still needs to be worked out. It shouldn't take 6-7months to determine if an account belongs to a player who petitioned for an investigation under any circumstance.

    Players now know (or should know) the dangers and imminent threat of black market account theft and should be doing there part to keep safe from it (Update your Flash Player in huge fucking text was nice for forum visitors) but ultimately you can only do so much on your end - lets hope SE takes the 'value' of an account (and continuing customers) as seriously as the RMT do.

    Id really like for SE to do more of what they did regarding the Flash Player exploit and actually step up and give some solid directions for players who may not visit forums as to how they can protect themselves along with SE-sanctioned forums. Honestly if you dont read forums actively and arent 'tech savvy' you are pretty much in the dark unless your ingame contacts give you a heads up and that only works in favor of the hackers.

    Interesting Read.

  13. #13
    Sandworm Swallows
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    7,329
    BG Level
    8

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Too bad that these are the same reporters that two years ago were saying that RMT were a great cottage industry, and they were just hard working people trying to carve out a niche in the new digital age.

    It all smacks of hypocrisy to me.

  14. #14
    Sea Torques
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    731
    BG Level
    5

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Quote Originally Posted by ringthree
    Too bad that these are the same reporters that two years ago were saying that RMT were a great cottage industry, and they were just hard working people trying to carve out a niche in the new digital age.

    It all smacks of hypocrisy to me.
    They were talking about second life iirc, where rmt is both legal and encouraged.

  15. #15
    Yoshi P
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    5,324
    BG Level
    8
    WoW Realm
    Arthas

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Considering she took it to a "repair shop" for a virus scan, it's pretty obvious she isn't very savvy with computers. Not really surprising that she didn't reformat it, if she even knew what reformatting was or how to do it at that time.

  16. #16
    Relic Horn
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    3,478
    BG Level
    7

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    How someone can get 22 viruses is beyond me

  17. #17
    Sandworm Swallows
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    7,329
    BG Level
    8

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Quote Originally Posted by aurik
    SE has improved drastically since last year at this time. And they're continuing to improve--I think they're hiring like crazy for the service&support center to reduce phone wait-times, and in the last few months they've implemented a procedure for freezing and recovering compromised accounts.

    Hopefully they keep improving account security and their responsiveness. These things do take time to implement.
    Implementing rollbacks and just accepting the pain on the economy was the real clincher for SE proving that they were serious about fixing these accounts. They are still painfully slow about the whole process, but this is more about the disjointed nature of NA to JP back to NA communication than about a lack of action.

  18. #18
    Sandworm Swallows
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    7,329
    BG Level
    8

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Quote Originally Posted by Gere
    Quote Originally Posted by ringthree
    Too bad that these are the same reporters that two years ago were saying that RMT were a great cottage industry, and they were just hard working people trying to carve out a niche in the new digital age.

    It all smacks of hypocrisy to me.
    They were talking about second life iirc, where rmt is both legal and encouraged.
    I am talking about video game reporters in general when they were reporting on RMT in MMO's in general.

  19. #19
    Sea Torques
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    731
    BG Level
    5

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    Quote Originally Posted by ringthree
    Quote Originally Posted by Gere
    Quote Originally Posted by ringthree
    Too bad that these are the same reporters that two years ago were saying that RMT were a great cottage industry, and they were just hard working people trying to carve out a niche in the new digital age.

    It all smacks of hypocrisy to me.
    They were talking about second life iirc, where rmt is both legal and encouraged.
    I am talking about video game reporters in general when they were reporting on RMT in MMO's in general.
    Because every writer for every magazine agrees 100% on every issue and are in fact all clones of Jango Fett, right?

  20. #20
    Sea Torques
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    622
    BG Level
    5

    Re: Escapist article on FFXI Account Theft

    It's cruel to say, but people really need to be educated about online safety. This is no different from learning how to secure the doors and windows of your home. Or learning that you need to watch both ways when you cross the street.

+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 5 1 2 3 ... LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. how do you unlink the token on your ffxi account?
    By johndeer291 in forum FFXI: Everything
    Replies: 31
    Last Post: 2010-06-08, 13:32
  2. In regardes to Account Security on FFXI
    By Taylorman in forum FFXI: Everything
    Replies: 25
    Last Post: 2007-11-04, 01:23
  3. Free FFXI Account.
    By Jujubee in forum FFXI: Everything
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 2006-08-19, 02:59
  4. Region coding on FFXI expansions?
    By Miruka in forum FFXI: Everything
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 2006-03-27, 08:17
  5. I need a FFXI account.
    By ½pint in forum FFXI: Everything
    Replies: 35
    Last Post: 2006-03-22, 11:19
  6. NY Times Article on RMT in China
    By Soje in forum FFXI: Everything
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 2005-12-09, 16:12
  7. Article on Gilfarmers
    By Quicklet in forum FFXI: Everything
    Replies: 27
    Last Post: 2005-07-10, 13:12