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!

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