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Account security mythbusting, part 3

Michael Sacco

A really common myth nowadays is that there's been a huge influx of compromises and Blizzard can't stop them.

MYTH: Blizzard is losing the war against gold farmers and hackers, which is why we see these new server messages.

Okay, you might have a valid concern. After all, if Blizzard is suddenly asking people to take extra security steps, that must mean that things are going poorly on the account security front.

Thing is, Blizzard's been asking players to take these very steps for years. A lot of players simply ignore them or don't know that they exist. The reason for bringing these steps to such public places as the front page of or the server welcome message may be any number of things:

- There's a new and public source of account compromises, such as a major website having a keylogger trojan injected into it.
- The Support department knows that Wrath has brought a lot of players either to the game or back to the game and wants to avoid loads of new compromises by arming the public with the knowledge they need to combat them.
- It's a good way to make people aware of the Authenticator, which means less work for Support and less stress for players.

Alternatively, it could be all three.

They've stated that there's been a rise in account compromises, and this is usually due to the first bulleted reason up there. I saw it plenty while I was at Blizzard--some bad code would end up on a major site, people would visit the site and get compromised. Blizzard can't do much about what goes on on other sites, which is unfortunate, but they can tell you how to avoid the issues they're likely to cause.

If Blizzard had the account security situation under control, you're thinking to yourself, they wouldn't need to take steps like they've taken recently. This isn't an unreasonable viewpoint if you're unfamiliar with gold farmer tactics. Let's examine this a bit.

- Gold farmers used to simply trade gold to the players that bought gold from them after receiving payment out of game.
- Blizzard started to develop methods to stop these kinds of transactions.
- Gold farmers started using the Auction House to send the gold to their buyers by having the buyer set up an auction for a cheap item for the amount of gold they've bought.
- Blizzard introduces an AH payment mail delay to help track and prevent these kinds of transactions.

This exchange is the equivalent of building a better mousetrap. Eventually, farmers build a better mouse. Sometimes they're quiet and lay low for a very long time, but eventually an effective new method of compromising accounts or performing illicit activities in-game becomes widespread and Blizzard needs to combat it.

What all that means is that compromise numbers will rise and fall with the times, and the best thing you can do about it is follow Blizzard's advice.

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