Character Assassination

‘Hot and unforgiving, the October twilight faded into night. Somalia was enveloped in darkness but for the dim moonlight that showed through fleecy clouds, casting a pale light as of approaching dawn over the streets and dark alleys of the city. In the distance the heavy guns roared. The Somali gunmen surrounded those converging on the crashed helicopter as the Rangers started to come under increasingly heavy fire.

On the rooftop near the crash site, a sniper lay watching. The round of events that transpired in the afternoon excited him too much, and he could barely eat. Beside him lay his rifle and over his shoulders was slung a pair of field glasses. His seemed in his mid twenties, perhaps a bit too experienced as the cold gleam of a fanatic resided within his dark gaze. However they were deep and thoughtful, the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death.

He reached inside of his pocket and withdrew a packet of cigarettes. He paused for a moment as he stared at the packet, considering whether it was worth taking the risk. It was dangerous. The spark might be seen in the darkness, and there were enemies watching. He decided to take the risk.

Placing the cigarette between his lips, he struck a match, inhaled the smoke hurriedly and extinguished the light. Almost immediately, a bullet flattened itself against the parapet of the roof. He inhaled once more and then crushed the cigarette artlessly against the stone beneath his hands. He swore and edged his body slowly from his current position, moving into position.

Cautiously he raised himself and peered over the parapet. There was a sudden flash and a bullet whizzed over his head. He dropped immediately and grabbed his rifle. He had seen the flash. It came from the opposite side of the street. From a smaller building.

Taking off his cap, he placed it over the muzzle of his rifle. Then he pushed the rifle cautiously over the one side of the parapet. The distance was about sixty yards- a hard shot in the dim light. He smiled sadistically as he spotted the slight movement. He took a steady aim. His hand trembled with eagerness. Pressing his lips together, he took a deep breath through his nostrils and fired. He was almost deafened with the report and his arm shook with the recoil…’

Snipers and assassination usually go with each other hand in hand. But what about character assassination?

According to wikipedia, character assassination in practice usually consists of spreading rumours and deliberate misinformation of topics relating to one’s morals, integrity, and reputation.

But today a far more serious threat has emerged with character assassination than the simple spreading of rumours or playing Delta Force Black Hawk Down, and taking down the enemy.

According to the press, games like Guild Wars (www.guildwars.com), Auto Assault (www.autoassault.com), City Of Heroes (www.cityofheroes.com) and Lineage (www.lineage.com), are under threat of character assassination in a unique way that involves game ID theft.

Lately numerous phishing trojans have been used in China to steal MMORPG player’s identities in order to sell off their virtual character’s prized possessions and make cold, hard cash.

Weapons and artifacts are transferred to the thief’s account, who then goes on to sell the valuable items, some of which fetch $900 or more.

In recent events NCSoft Corp (www.ncsoft.com), the publisher of popular online games like Guild Wars, City of Heroes and Lineage announced its intention to appeal against the court verdict that found them responsible for the theft of several players’ personal information.

Even if it was a simple and honest mistake on the company’s part, we have to ask ourselves how safe is it to participate in MMORPG’s?

I dug a bit deeper and discovered that game identity theft feeds $1bn a year on the black market. Staggering facts for a simple player like myself. So how should the average gamer protect themselves from having our ‘characters assassinated?’

After taking a bit of time, I wrote five simple rules that every gamer should follow:

1) Always enter your credit card details on a secure server with a SSL encryption of 128 or more. Please make sure a small lock displays at the bottom right hand of the screen in your browser. That would indicate a secure server.

2) If you store personal information (such as passwords or credit card numbers) on your computer or personal digital assistant, use an encryption program to protect it. Keep an electronic record, like a writable CD, of the sensitive information and store it in a secure place whenever you are not using it.

3) Never give out personal details (ex. passwords, addresses etc.) to friends, online clan members or anyone for that matter. Protect your identity at all costs.

4) Always use a password that is hard to remember. Do not use the same password everywhere as it increases the chances of being stolen. A good combination of letters and numbers should be sufficient.

5) Be very careful when browsing online sites and stay away from harmful sites that lead to hacking and illegal pirate software/games as these sites usually contain harmfull trojans, worms and spyware cleverly disguised as legit programs. Be careful what you click “Okay” because you just might be giving the software permission to access files and personal information on your computer.

Well as long as you keep your wits about you, you should be able to stay ontop of ID theft and continue enjoying playing your favorite MMORPG. Guild Wars anyone?

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