Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tales from the Dark Side of SL

Today, I'm going to risk spreading a little FUD...that's Internet slang for "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt."  I'd like you all to pay attention to the three stories I'm going to relate here, but please also bear in mind that this sort of thing does not happen often in Second Life.  In fact, it happens so seldom that it can be hard to verify. 

Verification is important.  Many people in SL have something startling happen to them, and they think, "I've been griefed!  I've been hacked!  I've got a virus!"  But in reality, what happened was their own fault, or they simply haven't understood what is really going on.  Or maybe something happens to someone, and they tell a friend, and they pass it on, and so on.  The tale gets distorted in the telling, until people wind up spreading wild and untrue rumors and complete misinformation.  That's why you sometimes hear people say things like, "Linden Lab is going to put a cap on Inventory items!"  or "LL is going to appropriate everyone's content for themselves!"  Utter nonsense, in other words.

But...sometimes...someone who seems to have their head screwed on tight comes to me with a tale.  I can't personally verify it, but it seems to be a real occurrence.  Here are three of those.

The Club Protection Racket.
The owner of a popular club came to the Answers forum with a complaint.  A group of griefers had begun showing up at the club.  They demanded protection money, and threatened to shut down the club if they weren't paid.  Despite being banned, muted, and ejected, they managed to completely disrupt the evening by persistent attacks with multiple accounts.  I have actually heard this scenario in several versions.  The griefers may use familiar tools like particle attacks, object rezzers, and sound emitters.  Sometimes they will use graphics crashers.  In at least one or two cases, they've used something that crashed the sim. 

The usual eject, ban, and mute tools, and repeated Abuse Reports on each griefer and each incident will generally resolve this, although it may take a lot of time and patience, waiting for LL to ban accounts.  Depending on how long the attacks continue, it can put a club out of business.

The Unstoppable Griefer.
Normally, you can keep unwanted people out of your land with ban lines or a security system.  You can keep most unwanted objects out by limiting object rezzing to group members, and by turning off object entry and scripts on your land.  But I have heard of one or two cases in which a griefer seemed to be able to ignore these limitations.  They have been reported as entering land which had all protections turned on, and somehow creating or getting griefing objects in as well.  Nobody seems to know how they did this.  The speculation is that they were using some sort of hacked, illegal viewer.

The Object Thief.
Here is the last and scariest tale of all.  A griefer was able to actually take objects that didn't belong to him.  The land was fully protected...access limited, security system, scripts turned off, all objects on the land Locked, even.  And yet a person was able to stand outside the parcel and somehow "reach in" and take objects, including several No Copy items.  This was not copybotting, they took the actual objects themselves.  The people this happened to tell me that they spoke with LL, who confirmed that this was actually possible, and that the incidence of such attacks was increasing.  Again, it is believed that the perpetrators are using an illegal viewer to do this.

The victims were able to get LL to check to see when the objects left the region and roll back the region to a time before the theft, and were thus able to recover their things.  However, LL does not do rollbacks often, and there is no guarantee that they will do so for every reported incident of this sort.

This is truly frightening, because the sanctity of objects in Second Life has been a matter of faith for all of us.  I don't use ban lines or security systems, and I've always said, "why worry about trespassers, they can't break anything or steal your spoons."  This may no longer be entirely true.

Pleasant dreams, everyone!

PS:  If any would-be griefers are reading this and thinking, "Cool, I gotta get me one of those illegal viewers," I would advise against it.  Most illegal viewers are more dangerous to the user than to his potential victims.  Besides the risk of getting permanently banned by LL for using one, a lot of them contain malware that can infect your computer and steal your passwords and personal information. 

On second thought...go right ahead!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Someone I Know is Posessed!

I've discussed phishing scams several times in this blog, and I warn against it in my Avatar Safety and Shopping Skills classes.  Yet, people who ought to know better keep falling for this type of scam.

Here's how it happens.

You belong to a group, and someone posts a link in group chat that includes a URL that they say will take you to new freebies or shopping bargains.  Or someone you know might post a link in an IM to you.  Or you might see one appear from a nearby person in local chat.

You think, "cool!" and you click the link.  Up pops a page that looks just like a Second Life website sign in page.  So you enter your user name and password, like you always do.  Or maybe you've been told that the link takes you to a page where you can earn lots of $L for taking a quick survey "from Linden Lab."

But you've just fallen for a classic phishing scam.  Even people who know better than to click links that arrive in their email can be taken in by these.  Especially when the message appears to come from a friend!  But you have to ALWAYS be on the alert.  Your friend may have already had their account compromised by a phisher, and now their avatar is controlled by an Evil Person looking to snare you, too!

And that's what happened, I'm pretty sure, to an acquaintance of mine.  He'd taken my Avatar Safety class, he KNEW about phishing.  But last night, his account started popping up in group after group, posting a link that was obviously a phishing attempt.  If someone you know starts doing or saying things that don't seem at like themselves, their account may have been compromised.  If you can, send them an IM when they are offline, so they'll get it by email.  This may alert them to the situation and let them notify Linden Lab.

How do you know if a link is a phishing scam?  Look at the URL.  If it does not start with https://, with an S at the end, it may be bogus.  If it does not have the domain, it's bogus.  The domain might LOOK similar, but it might be something like, say,, or secondlife.rus.  The spelling here is important, so examine it carefully.

Maybe the link has been shortened, by using one of those handy services like TinyURL.  If so, it will have a different form, like  This could be legitimate, Linden Lab does this all the time.  But it could be a phisher, too.  If you do open a link you get from someone, your browser will give you the actual address at the bottom of your screen.  If it's not one you recognize as valid, run away!

The safest thing to do is to not click any unsolicited links you get.  Browse MANUALLY to the site you want, or use a bookmark you've made yourself.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Avatar Safety Goes Off-Campus

One of the classes that I teach at Caledon Oxbridge University is "Avatar Safety."  In this 90-minute class, I cover a lot of the things that I've talked about here in this blog...griefers, practical jokes, scammers, con artists, phishing, and the emotional pitfalls of virtual life.  It's offered every Saturday at 1200...noon, SL Time (Pacific Time).

Recently I was approached by my friend Morgan Mickalobe, who runs the completely self-funded Care and Hope Center to provide women with information and support about domestic violence and violence against women.  She asked me if I would be willing to do a version of my Avatar Safety class at the Center.  Well, of course I said Yes!  While the forms of abuse that we're subject to in SL are much less harmful (physically at least, if not emotionally) than those of Real Life, it's possible to be a virtual victim...and learning how NOT to be one in SL just might spill over a bit into RL too.

Not a week later, another friend, Treacle Darlandes, who runs the enormously helpful New Resident Island and the White Tiger Mentors support group called me up...she'd been talking to iSkye Silverweb, one of the linchpins of Virtual Ability, who felt that they had a need for my class too!  Virtual Ability is a long-standing support organization that helps people with physical or mental disabilities in Second Life.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I thought.  So I agreed to do two offerings of Avatar Safety at Virtual Ability too.

Please bear in mind that these classes are open to anyone.  You don't have to be an abuse victim or have a disability to attend!  If you heard about the Oxbridge class, but the day or time of the offering didn't mesh with your schedule, here's your chance to catch up on what you missed.

Here are all the dates and places!

Caledon Oxbridge University:                     Every Saturday, 1200 SLT
Care and Hope Center                              Saturday, September 26, 1700 SLT
Virtual Ability, Yellow Hibiscus Cabana    Friday, October 2, 1200 SLT
Virtual Ability, Yellow Hibiscus Cabana    Saturday, October 3, 1700 SLT

Saturday, September 12, 2015

FLASH! Sansar Makes the News

Sansar, the new virtual world platform that Linden Lab is developing as a follow-on to Second Life, made the mainstream techie news this week!  Tom's Hardware ran a story on it which includes comments by Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab.  Read the story here:,30054.html

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Renting From Vampires

Today, one of my Oxbridge students came to me with a little problem.  She'd been banned from her home.

I won't go into all the Drama that led up to this.  Let's just say it involved a clan of vampires, a love triangle, and a slight case of mistaken identity.  You can make up your own story from those clues, I'm sure, and it will probably be much better than the actual series of events.  But the end result was that she couldn't get to the skybox home she'd constructed, and the land owner had not returned her objects.

I agreed to help her out.  One of the first things was to get the story of what had happened...well, her side of it, anyway.  It seemed to me to be a simple case of a minor mistake in etiquette on her part and a problem in communication, interpretation, or both.

The next step was to go to her land and see if the stuff was still there.  If it was not, it should be a simple matter to show her how to find the lump of returned prims in her Lost and Found folder, and show her how to rez them again and recover them properly.  But, when I arrived, sure enough her house and furniture were still there.  I also took the time to look at the parcel details.  It was Private Estate land, and it appeared that a vampire family owned the large parcel.  I had to assume that my student friend was there as a guest, or perhaps was sub-letting from the clan.  The Estate Owner was an old friend of mine, Derbor Torok.

As I was noting these details, still hovering in my friend's house, I received an IM from the head of the vampire family...the parcel owner.  He wanted, reasonably enough, to know what I was doing there?  I told him politely who I was, and my mission.  He demanded I come down and talk to him face to face, so I did.

Unfortunately, the gentleman was both fairly new to SL (a bit over three months old) and did not speak much English.  After a brief exchange, he brought over another person, a woman with whom my friend had had the conversation that led to her being banned.

I again explained my mission, saying that I was sure the whole thing was really a misunderstanding.  I asked the owner most politely if he would allow my friend back.  I agreed that he did not have to, and that it was his right to allow or ban anyone he liked on his land.  I then asked, if he chose not to allow my friend back, that he return her things.

I guess my translator was not working well, because shortly after that I found myself booted off the parcel.

I related my failure to my friend, and explained how she could get her stuff back, if the land owner didn't return it in a reasonably short time.  She should be able to go back to the region, in a parcel adjoining the land owner's, cam in and retrieve her objects.

I also told her, if she continued to have problems with the land owner, to contact the Estate Owner, my friend Derbor.  I figured that, as long as I have to deal with Vampire Clan Drama, I should share the joy!

But why, you may ask, am I telling all of you this sordid little tale?  It's very simple, Gentle Readers!  This is a perfect example of Second Life's Golden Rule in action.  That rule is, "He Who Owns the Land, Makes the Rules."  Regardless of what the lease or the Covenant says, a land owner is an absolute monarch on his little piece of virtual land.  If they choose, they can ban you.  Without warning, without explanation, without recourse, and without refunding the rent that you just paid them yesterday.  They don't even have to return your Stuff (although most will, they don't want your prims cluttering up the joint).  They don't have to listen to pleas, arguments, or excuses.  They don't have to put up with intermediaries like me.

Am I angry at the landowner?  No, not a bit.  Everything he did was within his rights.  I'm actually grateful that he let me stay long enough to get a few words in.  He could've just ejected and banned me without even saying boo.  I'm only disappointed that we were not able to communicate more clearly.  (Of course, if he ever comes to Masocado, I'll be gleefully happy to return the favor!  Muwahahaha!)

I will leave you with the same parting bit of advice I gave my friend:  "Next time, don't rent from vampires.  Their clans breed Drama as well as Undead Stalkers of the Night."

Friday, August 28, 2015

FLASH! Premium Membership for Less!

Another bit of good news from Linden Lab!

They've just reduced the cost of a monthly Premium membership from $9.95/mo. to $9.50/mo.  This is not a limited time or one-time promotion, like their occasional "half off the first month" or "half off the first quarter" deals.  This is an actual 5% cut to your Premium payment each and every month.

In addition, LL is no longer charging VAT tax on Premium memberships.  If your country imposes VAT, this can be quite a sizable savings.

And lastly, they are now giving Premium members access to Concierge level live chat tech support.  This was formerly only available to members who paid more than $100 USD per month in land fees.  I can report from experience that Live Chat is very helpful and responsive, much more satisfactory than filing a written Support Case.

Here is the Official Word:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

FLASH! Remembering Lumiere Noir

Hello everyone!  I haven't written in this blog in...well, far too long.  And my subject today is not a happy one.  One of the Greats of Second Life has left us.

I never knew Lumiere Noir personally.  But I have often used his Ivory Tower Library of Primitives to find out how to do something with the Second Life building tools.  And I have sent, probably, hundreds of people who wanted to learn how to build with primitives to the Tower.

Now, Lumiere has left us.  For anyone who's ever been to the Tower, or even spent time tossing prims around, that's a great loss.

Tomorrow, Sunday August 16, there will be a Remembrance and Celebration for Lumiere at the Tower, beginning at 1300 SL time.  Here's the notice:

God bless, Lumiere.