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World of Warcraft has got you tailed.

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posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 11:17 AM

Long arm of law reaches into World of Warcraft

The virtual world of online gaming seems like the perfect place to hide. There is plenty of anonymity, and it’s almost impossible for someone to trace activity back to its source, right? Wrong.

Two weeks ago, Howard County Sheriff’s Department deputy Matt Roberson tracked down a wanted fugitive through one of the most popular games on the Internet — World of Warcraft. And he got his man.


The sheriff’s department enlisted the aid of the U.S. Marshals this summer to track down a number of fugitives as part of Operation: Falcon, and Hightower was among those targeted. Unfortunately, authorities were unable to locate him. Roberson soon found out why. The suspect had skipped the country.

“I received information from a childhood friend, who tells me the guy is in Canada,” said Roberson. “I held onto the information in the back of my head. I spoke to the marshals and asked if we could confirm the guy’s location, would they help us get him? They indicated that they would.”

With the help of sheriff’s major Steve Rogers, Roberson began gathering information on Hightower through a number of sources. That is how they discovered that their suspect was a World of Warcraft fan.

“We received information that this guy was a regular player of an online game, which was referred to as ‘some warlock and witches’ game,” said Roberson. “None of that information was sound enough to pursue on its own, but putting everything we had together gave me enough evidence to send a subpoena to Blizzard Entertainment. I knew exactly what he was playing — World of Warcraft. I used to play it. It’s one of the largest online games in the world.”


Indeed, World of Warcraft is among the most popular online pastimes today, boasting more than 14 million players in dozens of countries — including Canada. But this is the Internet, and Blizzard is in California. Roberson’s subpoena was nothing more than a politely worded request, considering the limits of his law enforcement jurisdiction and the ambiguity of the online world.

“They don’t have to respond to us, and I was under the assumption that they wouldn’t,” said Roberson. “It had been three or four months since I had sent the subpoena. I just put it in the back of my mind and went on to do other things. Then I finally got a response from them. They sent me a package of information. They were very cooperative. It was nice that they were that willing to provide information.”

Blizzard did more than cooperate. It gave Roberson everything he needed to track down Hightower, including his IP address, his account information and history, his billing address, and even his online screen name and preferred server. From there it was a simple matter to zero in on the suspect’s location.

I bet this will represent a big surprise to some of Blizzard's customers.

Ironically, this will likely drive the instances of identity theft and fraud with Blizzard accounts.

While I'm all for catching the bad guys, I'm not feeling all warm and fuzzy with private business effortlessly bending over to government demands.

Dangerous territory, imo.

[edit on 5-1-2010 by loam]

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 11:39 AM
This isn't that big of a surprise really, many such places including ATS say right up front that they will cooperate with authorities and provide whatever information they can. From what I read it sounds like subpoena was mostly just asking for help, the guy even said he figured it was a lost cause to ask Blizzard for help, so its not like when the Federal government demands records from Google or other search engines. Plus when faced with the chance for negative press that invariably results from being unnecessarily difficult most businesses would rather be helpful and avoid hassle than to put up a fight and possibly do damage to their bottom lines.

As for identity theft in WoW I doubt this will make any perceptible changes, every day tons of accounts get hacked because people are stupid and click on links that end up stealing all their information and costing them tons of time in-game via having their gear sold, banks emptied and the like.

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 12:14 PM
No news is bad news in the entertainment industry. I'll be willing to bet that for Blizzard, and Vivendi who own the multinational gaming conglomerate, this was simply another PR exercise, a way to boast their 14 million subscriber base to the remainder of MMORPG's out there.

Yes, I too pay the £8.99 a month to play an endless game which can, for many members of my guild certainly, turn out to be a life sapping enterprise. Luckily I don't spend nearly as long as most of them and do take the game in moderation
. Also, I'm not so concerned about Blizzard handing out my details as a pretty rigid follower of the law, whether or not I agree with them.

As the above poster mentioned regarding identity theft, if you are silly enough to hand out your username and password to sites which claim to buy accounts, farm gold for you or any other form of cheat then you really are begging to have your guild bank emptied - if you have sufficient access. Otherwise you may just end up with a naked Orc, void of epics

[edit on 5-1-2010 by Pr0t0]

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 12:20 PM
He used his credit card, its as simple as that. If he was smart and went out to buy a GamCard, which is another alternative than using your credit card, he'd never would of been found. As we say in the gaming world "GG" (Good Games) LOL.

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 12:23 PM

Originally posted by -midnite-
As we say in the gaming world "GG" (Good Games) LOL.

I rather think this guy deserves more of a "PWNED" followed by a "PHAIL"

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 12:24 PM
i suppose if you are not a felon then you have nothing to worry about
i don't know why anyone would be offended by this, because the only reason they gave information away to authorities is because this individual deserved what was coming. it's nice to know that we can get to these people with different methods, regardless if it's through world of warcraft or hello kitty island adventure.. you're agreeing to share your information with this company and i suppose if you're a wanted man then you shouldn't be giving your credentials out to ANYTHING.

i've always been a fan of blizzard and i suppose this shines their benevolence even more...


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