Monday, September 28, 2009

Virtual Security, Pretators and Solicitors

The economy of a virtual world is one of the most important aspects of its community. Normally, a robust economy is tied closely to the success of the site.

The down-side of an economy focused game with a free-to-play component is that there tends to be a lot more have-nots than haves, and in many cases the have-nots do not have the means to upgrade, even if they truly love the game. When they do love the game, they can get desperate. Enter predators and the solicitors.

Predators convince other players to give them their Login Information (Email and Password for ourWorld), usually in exchange for the promise of something, normally currency or membership. Other reasons player ask for Login Info include players offering to trade accounts for 'fun' and more recently as a membership condition for social groups within the game. Not sure if that last one is ever legit. I've only just noticed that in the last couple of days.

ourWorld's automated report system caught and reported me making this image! Also, nobody gave me their info. Better luck next time (KIDDING!)

Solicitors run around giving their Login information away willingly to anyone that will listen, often just announcing the info to whomever might be in the room with them. They hope that somebody will take over their account and load it up with free goodies. Its sounds crazy but it happens all the time. Normally by younger players, but not always.

Ramifications of these actions are still relatively limited in ourWorld. It's not possible to give or trade your items away directly, and the ourWorld Marketplace (that allows sales to other players) is still limited. Basically this means there is no easy way to profit from taking another player's account in ourWorld. For the most part, the worst a person can do is vandalize the account, spend the account's currency, sell the accounts items, and lock the owner out.

It is likely we'll add more robust transactions. Trading, maybe, and other ways for players to interact with each other in ways that may benefit one player more than the other. When that happens, suddently stealing accounts can result in a direct benefit to the thief's account. If you can dump items or currency into your account, its becomes very tempting to try and gain access to others. When players are running around announcing their passwords to strangers around them, it becomes pretty easy as well.

If more robust player transactions happen, people illicitly collecting Login Info will become a huge problem (not that it isn't now) and we need to be very strict about how we deal with it (not that we aren't now.) What we really need to get across is this one simple rule:

Never give your password to anyone for any reason, EVER.

Everyone follows that rule, and the problem simply vanishes. I am baffled about what more we can do to spread this simple concept.