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Frogster seeks legal action after hacker instigates blackmail

Tue 18 Jan 2011 9:36am GMT / 4:36am EST / 1:36am PST
BusinessOnline

But community support for the mystery user grows as disaffection becomes increasingly evident

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With an impressive portfolio of around 20 titles and over 380 million registered players, Gameforge is...

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German MMO company Frogster has contacted police over a series of demands issued by an anonymous hacker, who purports to be a player of the company's games and has threatened to release account and user data on the internet unless the demands are met.

The demands centre on the improvement of customer and staff relations on the game and company forums, as well as the allegedly poor conditions which staff work under. The accusations included censorship and unfair pressure on forum users, as well as a lack of communication with, and respect for, players of the company's games.

A post by a user calling themselves Augustus87 on the Runes of Magic forum listing the demands was deleted by moderators, but not before somebody captured it and posted it to Kotaku. A YouTube user going by the name cptz3r0, which references Augustus87's user picture, has since uploaded a video to the site with further details of demands and motivations.

In the original post, Augustus87 made the claim that he or she had compromised much of the security measures in place in Frogster's systems, and would release the the user data of 1000 accounts on the forums of the company every day until demands were met. To back up his claim, Augustus87 published the details of 2000 users. This post was quickly deleted by the forum administrators.

Following that, the moderators made a formal response to the threats, claiming that the information released was from 2007, before Runes of Magic was launched and before the company underwent a security overhaul to protect users' data. The 2000 accounts affected have since had access, account settings and forum privileges revoked in order to "protect the affected players".

"We promptly assembled a task force and are of course making every effort to get to the bottom of this incident," read the statement. "We are utilising every means at our disposal to minimise the damage and to prevent such threats in the future.

"We have already implemented additional security measures today. As soon as all the necessary steps have been taken with regard to operational and criminal processes, we will inform you of further developments on this matter.

"This incident is very distressing to all of us. It is targeted not only at Frogster as a company, but also at Runes of Magic as a virtual biosphere and at you as players. We are always open to constructive suggestions. However, giving your opinion on blackmail and extortion is surely not the correct approach."

The revelation that the data released was 'outdated' has not assuaged the anger of the online community. Frogster has faced allegations of poor security and user protection before, and had denied all charges that data had been purloined by hackers at any point. Many of the forumites are taking the publication of the data as proof that Frogster was dissembling on this point, and that this data theft could be what prompted the "password reset initiative" which moderator Silberfuchs refers to.

Since the moderator's post, many members of the forums have expressed their support for the sentiments which Augustus87 voiced, although several are also critical of his methods and actions. The posts seem to indicate a rising level of frustration among players, disappointed with balance issues, poor staff communication and thread censorship. Moderator response so far has not indicated any progress on tracking the hacker.

Frogster has recently undergone a comprehensive high-level management restructure, with several senior members leaving in apparently acrimonious circumstances after a majority takeover by GameForge.

6 Comments

Ben Bateman
Community Development Manager

5 0 0.0
Wow, what a nightmare! Kudos to the moderators and administrators for acting as fast as they can.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Jon-Enee Merriex
APBR Producer

2 0 0.0
I think what a nightmare is an understatement. It is definitely scary what this hacker is doing and I hope they catch him.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Bonnie Patterson
Freelance Narrative Designer

159 431 2.7
While the hacker's demands might not be unreasonable things to expect from an MMO operator, making them blackmail demands is not only illegal but hugely counter-productive. One wonders, if the issues really are that dire, whether the hacker tried any of the following first:

1) asking;
2) volunteering to find ways to fix the problem himself;
3) sending details of the problems in a well-written article or review to a gaming press site;
4) organising a petition to demonstrate the importance and urgency of the issues;
5) at worst, organising boycotts and other protests that are legal.

Releasing users' private data is not just an attack on the company, but an attack on the affected players too. As a woman and a long time MMO gamer, I know I definitely wouldn't like my RL address exposed to the tiny minority of really creepy players some games have.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 18th January 2011 5:56pm

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Jeffrey Kesselman
CTO

112 0 0.0
If you design a game without proper security, you are asking for trouble.

Not enough developers understand that,

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Rick Ellis
Tech Director

15 0 0.0
@Jeff: agreed.

I'd also add that if you ignore your customers you are also asking for trouble.

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,175 1,124 0.5
Makes me wonder if the actual game in question is any good and if it's not... why are those folks STILL playing it (and dealing with the other issues no one needs to in terms of censorship and poor customer service)? Plenty of free to play MMO's out there with better all around support and more freedom of expression on their boards...

Posted:3 years ago

#6

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