Thursday

No Anonymity for World of Warcraft Gamers

Blizzard the makers of a rather popular game called World of Warcraft thought they had come up with a fabulous idea of improving their forums.   The anonymous game names that people used to post with  - where Blizzard explained responsible for creating a place "where flame wars, trolling and unpleasantness run wild".  Furthermore they figured -

removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven't been connected before

They added that Blizzard employees would be posting by their real names on the forums as well.  Now I'm not quite sure what pink and fluffy Internet that Blizzard use but I'm pretty sure it's not the same one I use.   Just to clarify, anyone wanting to post on the Warcraft forums (including those needing technical support) would need to use their real name and address.




This is possibly one of the stupidest ideas I've seen online in a long time, when all the sensible people are rightly becoming increasingly concerned with the lack of privacy and all the many risks it entails, Blizzard want everyone to throw out their real identity on a bloody Games Forum !

  Notwithstanding the benefits being fairly minimal - making the Warcraft forums a little bit nicer is hardly that important - forcing users to throw out their real identities on the internet is utter madness.

For some years I've been doing security lectures in local schools.  The idea is to make sure the kids are careful online, are aware of the dangers, always use pseudonyms, never divulge personal information and stuff like that.  Then one of the biggest online games manufacturers attempts to do this is frankly beyond belief.

There are of course lots of people who are completely oblivious to the risks of divulging such information online, one such poster offered up his name on the Warcraft thread discussing this issue.   He challenged anyone to find him by just using this information.   The result was not surprising, 20 minutes later he was called at his work telephone number -by a Warcraft player asking for Sikketh from Thunderlord.   Someone had tracked down his full address, work and personal telephone number and parents names in just under 20 minutes.

It is of course very simple to track most people down who have any sort of online presence, the above sleuth work was achieved by using primarily Facebook and Twitter profiles.  When you have a real name to start off with it becomes much, much simpler to find out such information about people.

Some Real Life Examples of Why you Should Keep your Gaming Identity Private


Now we all know that the internet is full of people you'd rather not meet in real life.  One of the main problems is that you have little information on the people you are communicating with.  Sure Aderoth the Shapeshifter might be a good laugh in a Dungeon raid but would you like to go for a drink with him, he or she could be absolutely anyone in real life?   So a couple of slightly alarming examples.....

The Counter Strike Knife Fight

If anyone plays online games they will know it can be pretty annoying to get knifed in games like Counterstrike.  It happens to me a lot partly because my reaction speeds have dropped dramatically as I get older but mostly because I'm just not very good at them.  But some people don't handle this virtual death as well as others - Julian Barreaux for instance.  He had a knife fight and lost in a game of Counterstrike Source, but Julian didn't take this very well at all.  In fact he spent the next six months tracking down the player he lost to - finally locating him in a town only a few miles from his own, a couple of hours North of Paris.


After locating the unfortunate gamer, Monsieur Barreaux armed himself with a large kitchen knife and visited his fellow gamer at his home.

When the poor chap opened the door,  Julian Barreaux stabbed him in the chest missing his heart by inches.     He was extremely lucky to be alive, he was attacked simply for winning an online fight in a game.

Amazingly Barreaux was given only a two year sentence so  he will probably have his liberty again next year and will probably be back online.   Makes you think twice about picking off that sucker ten times in a row with your sniper rifle when there are nutters like him around !


The Advance Wars Central Killer

This is a horrible case where a 21 year old called German gamer called David Heiss travelled from Germany and stabbed a young man called Mathew Pyke.  They had met by playing a Wargame called Advance wars and Heis had become infatuated with Mathew Pykes girlfriend.    Mathew helped run a web site based on the game called Wars Central.   To cut a long story short, Heiss tracked down Mathew Pyke and stabbed him 86 times in his flat in Nottingham - you can read some of the tributes to him on the War Central website here

Now of course, I do realise these are extreme cases, but it shows how incredibly easy it is for anyone to track down people across the internet just using online information which is available to anyone.  Of course our Governments, agencies and Identity Thieves know much much more about including just about everything we do online as well as our names and addresses.  They don't need our names and addresses as they already have them, but that's no reason to let everyone know them.

Privacy and the ability to surf safely and anonymously is one of the most important issues on the internet today.   We still use a protocol (HTTP) that has no security built in at all and is essentially a clear text method of communicating.  But happily there is at least a happy ending to the madness of the Warcraft forums - Blizzard completely overwhelmed by the outrage of its player base have backed down and scrapped their brilliant idea, you can still post anonymously on the Warcraft forums.   Of course we all know that you can't really but at least you don't have to hand over your name and address so openly !

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