When I first heard the term “Griefing” in Second Life I wasn’t sure what it was referring to. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it refers to attacks launched against sims or people. In the past, these attacks could be considered pranks but griefing technology has advanced instead of declined. In fact, as of last night, you could buy “Sim Crashers” on SL Marketplace.
Vicious Attacks on Junkyard Blues
If you are a fan of blues music, you probably know about Junkyard Blues and if you’ve been there in the past month you may have been caught in one of many griefing attacks. Following is part of an notecard that was sent to Junkyard Blues members to explain the attacks and the measure they’ve implemented to reduce the attacks. I believe you’ll find it to be shocking.
“Dear Junkyard Blues Friends and Staff”
“I know this is a long letter, but a lot has happened lately. This is the story of it all. Because of a longstanding bug with notices (including attachments) this letter won’t reach everybody who might be interested in reading it, so I hope you’ll pass copies along to friends and anyone else who might like to learn about recent events at the Junkyard.”
“As most of you know we have become a members-only venue because of the relentless griefing we endured in the month of December. We were attacked by multiple griefers with blinding graphics card attacks and sim lag/crashes. In all but a few of the attacks we could not recover the Junkyard sim without Linden help, sometimes resulting in hours of waiting for business hours to begin the following day. In some instances the computers of many staff and patrons actually shut down or rebooted as a result of the attacks.”
“This was a concerted denial of service effort, worse than anything we had experienced in 6 1/2 years of operation. It was stressful to DJs, hosts, and patrons. Some patrons began staying away from the club because this was more than they had bargained for in a relaxing evening at a music club, and some Junkyard staff expressed concern about damage to their machines. At one point we were told that if we paid money to the griefers they would stop attacking us. We refused.”
“Dina and I were losing sleep over this, and there was no help available anywhere. All that was available from Linden Lab was the invitation to file abuse reports, one by one, on each individual who attacked us if we could even give them a name, and then we’d see the same people we reported returning to do it again. At one point a single DJ show was sim-crashed 4 times. Other venues were having similar experiences with the very same griefers. As the days dragged on with attack after attack after attack, we finally realized that we were not going to be getting effective help from anybody, and if we were to survive we had to do something.”
“Except for just giving up there was no other remotely viable option, so we went with making the Junkyard a members-only club. We weren’t sure how people would react or if it would work at all, but anything was better than being attacked almost hourly. (By the way, we were stunned to discover that you can buy sim crashers on the LL Marketplace. I still don’t have my head wrapped around why somebody decided that it’s a good thing for Second Life, but I digress.)”
“We held out for a few more days, getting the word out to patrons in between crashes that they should get a Junkyard Blues tag so that when we close the door to non-members they’d continue sailing right through. Many did, but quite a few never got the memo. Then, finally, we closed the sim to non-members except for one spot, the drive-in movie lot, which became the default landing area for non-members. Volunteers from staff welcome them after a brief look and offer group membership tags along with an explanation of why we took this step. We’ve handed out several hundred tags there over the past several days. ”
“So far so good.” by Kiff Clutterbuck & Dina Petty
There is more to this letter but the subject of this post is the griefing attack itself.
What Is Linden Lab Doing?
I know Linden Lab has dedicated employees and my assumption is that there is a team working this problem, trying to prevent the type of attacks unleashed on the Junkyard, and there are obvious questions raised. However, I experienced a “blinding graphics card attack” for the first time over two years ago at an SL Welcome Area. So I know the potential for this type of attack has existed for a long time.
First, how is it that the Second Life support continued to treat these attacks as simply a series of incidents, requiring filing individual Abuse Reports?
Did anyone in SL Support escalate this security issue to the team responsible for protecting sim from destructive attacks?
Does anyone at Linden Lab realize they are allowing the sale of “Sim Crashers” on SL Marketplace? I can assure you these devices were for sale as of last night when a tech friend bought one for L$50. My friend intends to test the device on a private sim then report the results. More on this to come.
A copy of this video has been sent to the Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California and a copy to Washington D.C.:
Reaching out to Mr. Barack Obama on virtual world crime.
What needs to be done is for the FBI to get involved….force Linden Lab to take responsibility for these acts of cybercriminals within Second Life. Everyone deserves to be free of cyber terrorism and harassment. Someone or group of people need to file a class action law suit against Linden Lab for abiding Cyberterrorism. This has been a major issue for years.. and Linden Lab does NOTHING to get it under control…NOTHING.
Hi Robert… while I couldn’t agree with you more, I’m afraid that were are small fish in the ocean of cyberterroism, cyberextortion and crime in general. LL is probably even more aware that there’s no chance anyone in SL can bring the kind of pressure to bear on them to cause them to act. I’m sorry to say, as with every LL abdecation of responsility, SL is what it is and we have to either accept it or leave it. BUT someday, there will be a genuine alternative, and then LL will be left holding mountains of aging hardware and useless software. Just my opinion…
Thanks for your reply Yordie.. when that ” genuine alternative” comes along.. I will gladly leave Second Life…. a virtual world full of hate and discontent.
Hi Robert… I’m sorry to hear that SL has been a world of hate and discontent for you. I’ve had many disappointments and I’m very discontented with the way LL is managing SL, but I’ve found many wonderful people and seen many beautiful places in my second life. Regardless, I leave when that alternative comes along. Kind regards, Yordie
Yordie… for the most part Second Life has been a wonderful experience…I’ve had the opportunity to meet alot of wonderful people and I’ve had the honor and privilege to perserve alot of Second Live Live music history. Over the past few months Second Life has become a living hell due to the amount of harassment and abuse we have had to endure.. with very little if any help from Linden Lab. Linden Lab deleted alot of accounts I filed abuse reports on but that was useless as these people harassing me have a stock pile of alts not to mention the countless number of people they can recruit to help in their missions. I have no intentions of leaving Second Life. I have a great deal of love and support of me there….I can only hope and pray Linden Lab.. will fix the problems asap so everyone can live in peace.
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From all indications, Linden Lab decided several months ago to end real-time enforcement of the Terms of Service. This is good news for the griefers but bad news for their victims. But even without LL’s help, there are things you can do to minimize a griefer’s impact:
1. To remove the possibility that griefers can make a significant impact on your estate, region, or parcel, lock it down. Turn off Create Objects, Object Entry, and Scripts for everyone outside your group, or for everyone. Disable voice so no one can shout obscenities over voice chat. Restrict access so that only members of your group can enter, or restrict access so that only the residents you specify can enter.
2. If you can’t or don’t want to lock down your land, you can still protect it. Give your group’s officers the ability to eject and ban residents and return their objects. Give the officers the ability to turn off building and scripts and object entry. Make sure that one of your officers is on duty at all times (or during peak hours) to provide security. Train your officers so they know how to protect the parcel and how to recognize a griefer.
Traits commonly exhibited by griefers are:
– Blank profile
– New resident less than 5 days old (not all newbies are griefers, but almost all griefers are newbies)
– Newbie clothing, skin, and shape
– Provocative or intolerant username
Assume that your Abuse Reports to Linden Lab will go unanswered. Prepare to deal with the griefers yourself. Assume that the griefer has been invited into your group and can do anything a group member can do. Don’t rule out the possibility that one of your trusted friends is the griefer (even trusted friends have their passwords compromised sometimes).
I would love to help with griefer problems in this or any other venue. I have an anti-griefer group (The Green Lanterns) full of people who would love to help too. So let’s talk!
– GreenLantern Excelsior
Hi again Hal…
First, thank you for your detailed advice, especially the griefer profile.
I believe, Kiff Clutterbuck, owner of Junkyard Blues has resorted to most of those measures. I also believe the JY is operating without incided for the past couple weeks. I’ll tell Kiff about your group and he may have some additional information to share.
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Sad and scary post …
JB has always been one of my favorite places in SL. I think JB already has lots of problems with lag (as all bigger places have, thats nothing special), but to get griefers is just not fair and a really bad thing. JB worked hard to make and keep a very nice made place. I guess, griefers are a result of beeing successful … Sad ….
I think, as long as it is allowed to create lots of alts in SL, there will be a griefing problem. If LL would find a way to stop ppl from creating alts like crazy, i am sure lots of griefing would just stop. And from other games i know there are ways to at least minimize creating alts.
Beside this there are plenty of other ways to minimize griefing, but they just dont do anything.
Of course employees costs a lot and each RL company want to keep their staff team to a minimum to save money. But i am wondering what costs more, to have staff who must read all the reports about griefing and then sort the problems (if L has this staff, then i am wondering if anyone reads the reports, i wrote so many and never had the feeling they do something), or to change a few things in their system, so griefers cant spread objects, particles, etc around which crashes people or even whole sims.
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I hate to say this, Yordie but some of these attacks, quite a lot in fact, come from competitors who not only do the damaging griefing but also spam other avatars visiting the region. I can’t name names for legal reasons but I have some idea who was behind a string of attacks on my sims a while back because at the same time there was considerable spamming of members going on from a particular source. I even ejected and banned several avatars that I noticed lurking on the sim and not taking part in anything or even exploring. I also reported some to LL but with them not telling you anything as follow up I had no idea what the outcome was. The problem did come to a stop though. Anyway, just saying.
I have to agree with Gaga. I also think, griefing is often caused by “competitors” or people who are just jealeous. What is the reason to do a griefing like that ? Some do it for fun, but i think most of them do it because they have a “reason” to do it, f.e. they want to distroy a place.
As a club owner i had the same problem a while back at my club. I know for sure who it was, but since they came with alts, the only thing what i could do is to ban and report alt by alt and hope LL is going to do something. Unfortunately ban, report and hope is all what we can do.
The sad thing is, each time someone unknown enters my place, my heart stops to beat for a moment .. instead of beeing happy about new visitors, you are just scared. its a sad thing …
Crashers and griefers bungled me several computers when I was estate. I know some have been paying to be safe. My wife and I prefered to stop our business. It was 2009… LL don’t care : MarketPlace is not controlled, bans take too much time, they don’t track IPs and, of course no massive legal actions.
The only thing we could do is ask LL to put the option “TOS violation” under “Flag this item button. If an action is done, I’ll join.
This is a sad ole story and all too familiar I have to say. My Second Life regions have been griefed more times than I can remember over the years. I’ve had the scripted objects that lag the region and the particle flooders. At one time my market was rarely hit and I could leave rezzing as an option for customers to try on clothes. Long gone are those days and now the only way I can keep the griefers down (but NOT out) is to allow entry but deny object rezzing until you get accepted in the sim group. It dose make life hard and imposes limits on the role play and other activity but one is left with no choices.
I have even had greifers IM me and taunt me with promises of more. They even invited me to report them then said it wont stop them, and sure enough it wont until they get bored and move on. Plenty more avatars where this one came from they say. And one even told me he can change IP address and email address as often as he likes. Linden Lab are powerless!
I think it is something we will have to live with sadly and, unless LL decided to kill free avatars, I can’t see them getting on top of the problem. Don’t bank on LL to stop free avatars though.
I shared this on G+ @ Opensim Virtual and Second Life communities…
Hi Gaga… I was worried that this problem is unresolvable. I suppose the griefers can use proxy addresses and be untraceable in some regions of the world. I wonder if it would help to block certain regions? my guess is they’d be able to redirect to other regions tho, that is, the truly knowledgeable griefers. It’s a shame. I do like the idea of reporting these attacks to Internet Crime Complaint Center; at least this is proactive.
Speaking as a technologist, I beleive countermeasures could be created for a sim under attack. The signatures of certain attacks could be identified in the same way as virus detection. For example, if countermeasure software were installed, it could detect particle flooding or graphic card attacks. Sure, this type of software engineering is not easy, but all applications, processes and services have performance boundaries which could be monitored. If those boundaries are exceeded, the countermeasure software could simple stop the processing. This is within the realm of possibilites. A desire to create this type of software is another matter though. That can only come from the Lab or a 3p.
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Linden Lab is begging to be sued for damages caused by not doing a thing against extortion. And they have no right to hide behind the “boys will be boys” attitude. It’s time they finally acted like a proper ISP. If not, they should confess their complete ineptitude and lack of any trace of intelligence and shut up shop.
And this unwillingness on behalf of LL to act in order to stop these criminals (because extortion IS a crime, whether LL likes it or not) leaves a gaping void waiting for other griefers (the “good” ones) like the JLU to fill it.
It is hard to understand why the Lab is unwilling to act. I’m just bewildered by the whole thing.
One plausible answer is that they don’t give a damn. Another plausible answer is that they fear the griefers will sue them (and I think a Linden was recently allegedly fired for banning a griefer who threatened LL with legal action for being banned!). Yes, LL is a very small company that can’t afford legal action, so it’s easily bullied by third-rate bullies and lets them do what they will.
And it leaves residents with the option of recruiting other griefers (the “Justice League Unlimited”, for instance) or using spyware/malware/scamware like zFire Xue’s RedZone (zFire Xue is a convicted fraudster, BTW) or Skills Hak’s (yes, the infamous Skills Hak of the Emerald Viewer DDoS and spyware fiasco) Gemini CDS Ban Relay.
Also, do remember LL’s fiasco in the Curio/Hush case…
Do you think this sort of company is worthy of any trust?
You raise a good point about retaliatory law suits by griefers. The Lab is a business though and it should have policies to deal with this, policies that protect legitimate residents. Fear of law suits is valid. Even winning a case is a hollow victory, even with a countersuit because griefers probably have limited or inaccessible financial resources.
You and i understand that LL is a business. Does its management understand it, though? Real businesses protect themselves and their clientele (because we are customers of LL). When a customer sees piss-poor customer service and zero customer protection, s/he will pack up and leave.
And even if a customer that leaves SL suffers damage by no longer running a business there, LL also suffers damage, because this customer will no longer generate income for it:
(a) If the customer is a content creator/merchant, s/he will no longer generate income for LL through a marketplace fee and/or land rental for their shop (and, of course, the RL currently-to-L$ transactions of other people who want to buy their stuff),
(b) if the customer in question is a mere consumer (like most SL residents), s/he will no longer buy L$ to buy stuff in SL and s/he will no longer pay for premium membership (if they are premium residents).
Doesn’t take a London School of Economics graduate or a Harvard MBA graduate to understand it. It’s not rocket science. Then again, who said CEOs actually have brains in their skulls?
Your comments ring true. The only explanation I can think of is that LL simply wants to offer SL on a take it or leave it basis. I can’t help noticing that they’ve withdrawn more and more from any type of active role, and I wonder if they consider SL to be a declining business. They still have interests in certain technologies, but those technologies often seem frivilous to those who struggle with security issues. I don’t know what it takes to even reach the right level of management of this company, they seem to have no path of escalation or direct access.
Extortion is a *crime*. If they haven’t already, Junkyard Blues should report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (run partly by the FBI). Even getting an attorney merely to send Linden Labs a letter threatening a lawsuit should get a bit of attention. See: http://www.ic3.gov/
This is great information, Dividni. I’m passing it on to Kiff & Dina immediately. Thank you.
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BTW, have you ever tried flagging an item on Marketplace? I see no option to flag items for violating the ToS, but only for violating some kind of listing practice or copyright. If the item violates the ToS itself, and just the ToS, it seems you cannot report it on Marketplace.
Hi Ricco… It is surprising that there’s no option. I’d say I’m shocked but I suppose if there were an option to declare a ToS problem, then someone at the Lab would have to provide some support. It seems to me that the Lab has made it difficult to reach anyone except through very narrow windows of support.
Please note that when I left off the second half of the notecard, I inadvertently left off the authors names, Kiff Clutterbuck and Dina Petty.
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Great post, Yordie – thank you! I’m linking my own post here.
I’m sorry to say I inadvertently left off the authors names of the notecard. It was Kiff Clutterbuck and Dina Petty.
Reblogged this on The Lionheart Times and commented:
On griefing attacks at Junkyard Blues and the result, by Yordie Sands at her blob.
Thanks Mistletoe… I inadvertently left off the authors names, Kiff Clutterbuck & Dina Petty.
Wow Yordie, what crappy, sad news 😦
The thing is, when you run a totalitarian state, like Apple iTunes, you can have a lot of security and shut down a lot of malicious stuff. When you have a relatively more open state, like Google Play, one of the prices of freedom is more griefing.
I think we do have to allow a certain amount of “creative play / hacktivism / griefing” in an open culture. Wherever that fuzzy line might be, obviously what you’ve described at Junkyard Blues is way past it. I suppose JB could take bitter comfort in the realization that this crummy situation is a backhanded compliment of sorts: the griefers wouldn’t have bothered if JB hadn’t reached a certain level of success.
It sure is a lot of work to protect our freedom. I used to think that once you had earned or achieved freedom, that at least you wouldn’t have to spend all your time on that any more. I guess I was wrong. Apparently if we want to keep our freedom, it’s going to take, like, eternal vigilance.
I agree about eternal vigilance. Unfortunately, sim owners have no tools to fight these types of attacks. And when there is no one to go to for urgent help, the problem is even worse. Junkyard Blues is an ongoing business with 2 business sims and 10 surrounding residential homesteads. Junkyard Blues is paid for by housing and store rentals, so a disruption of its operation could create a severe financial impact. Let’s hope this trend doesn’t spread.