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Account security is your responsibility, not Blizzard's

Amanda Miller

PlayNoEvil recently published an article explaining why they think it is that hackers target gamers by stealing their passwords and other account information.

While there is some truth in the premises offered, articles like this one only serve to fuel conspiracy rumors and encourage players to think of themselves as victims rather than take responsibility for their own account security.

Gaming companies do place some of the blame for a compromised account on the account holder, and for good reason. The hacker certainly didn't gain access to your computer because of their actions, and their computers that store your information are as yet untouchable.

The browsers you use, sites you visit, firewall settings, anti-virus software and update practices are just a few of the ways that you contribute to your own hacking experience.

Sharing your account information with your lover, best friend and mother may sound safe, but you don't control the security of their computers, or their friends' computers. The majority of people I know who have been hacked signed into their accounts on their sibling's computer or a publically shared machine.

In fact, NASA ended up with a keylogger targeted at gamers on the International Space Station. It traveled aboard on the laptop of one of the astronauts. You just can't trust any computer that isn't your own.

It may be hard to hear, but a hacked account is because of something you did, whether it was an unfortunate stroke of luck, such as stumbling onto a redirect on a legitimate website in the small window before the site addresses it, or a serious oversight in security on your part.

PlayNoEvil's assertion that the blame on the consumer coming down from the gaming companies is because they suspect you of being a gold farmer is just ridiculous. If your account was hacked because of your involvement with a gold farming or power leveling service, you deserve any of the blame, suspensions and bans that you do get, but not every compromised account holder is accused of being in the gold farming business.

Another idea put forth is that the government has no ability to or interest in getting involved with virtual theft. While there is some truth to that, it doesn't fit into the bigger picture.

If we ask the government to police virtual theft, we'd open the door for them to police every virtual issue and every virtual space, from pornography to personal blogs. It opens a giant can of worms that no one would currently know how to fairly and effectively contain.

In addition, virtual issues are gaining more media attention as well as garnering legal consequences. This is still new territory, and developing and enforcing laws takes a lot of time and resources. The system can't be set up in a day, and there are other virtual crimes that are higher on the priority list.

Asserting that the gaming companies aren't doing anything is also incorrect. Blizzard, for one, has been shutting down gold farming sites, doling out lawsuits, and adding in-game features to help combat against gold farming. The more headway they make, the less lucrative account stealing will become. After all, who do you think they sell all your stuff to?

I remember having a conversation with a buddy of mine about his Guild Wars obsession, as I was trying to suss out whether I'd like it or not. I was essentially informed that add-ons aren't strictly allowed, and so they all come from various websites and are .exe files, but that in his opinion, without them, the gameplay just wasn't as appealing.

I told him what I am going to tell you. If you want to develop your gaming account during your free time, with hours of effort and money invested, and insist on downloading from questionable websites, running executable files, and plugging them into a game that doesn't really want them, then you will get hacked, and it will be your fault. Fortunately, WoW runs differently, and add-ons are relatively safe, as long as you get them from reputable web sites.

As for the assertion that companies do not keep adequate records of account transactions and therefore cannot restore your items, this really depends on the company and the game. Keeping all of those records and hiring the personnel to return your things would be incredibly costly. Blizzard is pretty proficient at it, but the circumstances are unique to each developer.

Hackers target gamers because they are in possession of goods that can be sold for a profit. As it is a virtual theft, you have to work to secure these assets by securing your machine and developing better habits. WoW Insider strives to provide you with news of the latest security holes and the various measures you can take to fortify your computer, but we can't do it for you, and neither can Blizzard.

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