Garwulf’s Corner #13: Hackers at the Gates


Hackers at the Gates

I am now longing for the days when hackers weren’t a problem on Battle.net.

Oh, they were a problem, but just not a problem. Sure, you got player killed by some hacker invoking an act of God (usually around some strange magic item, just to torment you). Occasionally somebody would walk in and drop so many non-legit magical items that you couldn’t take a step without tripping over a Godly Plate of the Whale. But those were just nuisances. Those you could laugh off, write philosophical columns about, blame on Barney the Purple Dinosaur, and then avoid once the Realms Servers were available.

Now it’s an honest-to-God problem.

I think soon Battle.net will have seen it all. First, at the beginning of the year, there was a mass murder of hardcore characters. Hackers broke into the Realms, killed off these intrepid adventurers who actually disdain the ultimate life insurance, and left without a trace.

Then, once Blizzard had fixed the bug that had allowed these hackers in, they attacked again, striking against the Realms and the website. Now the police on at least two continents are involved, and the Hackers have once again vanished without a trace.

(At least, that is the state of affairs as I write this in early March; remember, there is a time lag on this column.)

It boggles the mind. These are not innocent game hacks, or people trying to create an uber-character in under thirty seconds. These are terrorist attacks, almost as vicious in their own way as the Palestinian bombers. There is no playfulness in them whatsoever; they are trying to ruin Blizzard by destroying its reputation for quality.

The question that has my head spinning is: “Why?”

It can’t possibly be for recognition. After all, as soon as the hackers responsible raise their heads, they’ll be beset upon by the police, Blizzard’s cadre of lawyers, and probably one or two major demons who are annoyed that they haven’t had adventurers to feast on during the attacks (monsters do get cranky if you don’t feed them regularly, after all).

One might wonder if there is a political statement here, but even that is obscure at best. What could Blizzard possibly represent that some fanatic feels it needs to be destroyed? Let’s face it, they make computer games. Great computer games. How this could possibly annoy somebody is beyond me.

That leaves only one possibility left in my mind: Iconoclasm.

The word itself comes from the mists of time, when the Byzantine Empire was at the height of its power. People who disliked the order of the Empire would go into churches and destroy the gold-leafed paintings, known as Icons, in protest. Since then, the word has referred to people who destroy things just because they are established.

And Blizzard is established. It may not be Microsoft, but it has become a giant in the computer game industry. No other game has managed to sell as many copies as Diablo II, and I have no doubt that the upcoming expansion and Warcraft III will be just as spectacular.

And so, a bunch of modern Iconoclasts have decided to try and knock it down. The fact that hundreds of thousands of players would much rather see Blizzard succeed does not worry this fanatical minority. They’ve found the biggest, most popular target they could, and gone after it.

What a waste.

There are so many causes out there that could use people with some degree of fanaticism. Protecting authors from having their books pirated on the Internet, for example. Helping musicians who have been screwed over by the record labels (the music industry has to be the only market I know of where an artist can sell a million records and fail to see a profit). Peace in the Middle East, the abolishment of the Star Wars program, finding environmentally safe sources of power…

Needless to say, the list goes on for quite a while. Causes worthy of fanaticism are not difficult to find. But these are long, complicated issues that will take far more time and energy to solve than harassing Blizzard would.

I guess there is an inherent laziness involved. Attacking Blizzard anonymously is something a hacker can do quickly, and then move on from within days. The time and dedication involved in actually trying to accomplish something worthwhile is beyond these people.

Sad, really. Hacking into Blizzard takes skill, but the act itself is a waste of talent. Just imagine what these hackers could accomplish if they’d just grow up and try to do something helpful. It truly boggles the mind.

Disclaimer: Garwulf’s Corner is written by Robert B. Marks and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.

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