Online Games And ID Theft

The three main problems with getting hooked on interactive computer games are boredom, security issues, and glitches.

When I first began playing online games security was a major issue for me so I wouldn’t download games.  That meant I was limited to games that could be wholly played online.

First I played Hollow but they muted me for something stupid and I took offence.  Haven’t been back there since.  Next came Syrnia.

I played Syrnia for many months but the time came when it took forever to reach the next goal.  My loathing of player versus player killing kept me from exploring other levels of the game so boredom set in.

I switched to Movoda, a very similar game, but I was getting very tired of watching the timer count down.  It started making me restless and irritable.  This was my LIFE ticking away!

Next I found Well Of Souls.  I made an exception to my no download policy for this game because it said I could play it offline which meant less security risk.

It was ok for a while and then I found a new world that could be added to the game engine.  Reign Of Terror captivated me.  I poured hours into the character I created then discovered a mini-game in the main game.  It was a lottery and, addicted gambler that I am, I forgot about playing and took to collecting money to buy lottery tickets.

I was just running my game character back to the lottery place for another round of lottery draws one night when my screen suddenly went black.

A game character appeared and said I had been cheating and was now in Unknown Hell where I would stay.  It advised me to appeal the decision to the game creator or start a new game character because I could no longer play with this one.

In a fit of irritation and indignation (I did not cheat) I deleted the condemned character and started all over again.

A few weeks later, again as I was running back to play the lottery, that character was also sent to Unknown Hell.

It soured me on the game completely this time.

My daughter had been missing my company in the other online games, meanwhile, and she had started playing a game her work colleague introduced her to.

She persuaded me to try it so I put aside my unease about security issues and loaded Cabal Online into my computer.  It was not so easy to play but, with my daughters help, I got the hang of it and began enjoying it.

Like Well Of Souls, the Cabal game engine installed itself on my computer with server privileges, something all my research into computer security said was a no-no.

When a programme gives itself server privileges it means it can, in the words of something I read somewhere, “listen on any port for unsolicited incoming data”.  In other words, it becomes an open back door into your computer.  As far as I can gather that means anyone who finds it can use it to put anything they want onto, or take anything they like off, your computer.  They can also use the computer to send out spam and viruses or eat up my resources doing things they don’t want anyone to be able to trace back to them!

Me not silly, me not dumb, me no patsy for online scum so, like I did with the WoS game engine, I used my firewall to turn off those privileges in the Cabal game engine.

The game worked fine without having the back door into my computer open until the game server went down for maintenance.  When it came back up I could not log in.  I tried everything, including setting my firewall to give it server privileges again and uninstalling the whole game and reinstalling it.  That wiped out the character I had spent so much time building and it still wasn’t working.

While I waited for the game to try and access the server I noted, with major suspicion and unease, the way my computer seemed to be sending a lot of data out and doing a lot of work with no visible results.

Memories of stories I had been reading about people who had been victims of identity theft began popping into my mind and I lost my nerve.

I deleted the game and gave up.

Last night I began scouring the web for a replacement and was a bit concerned at what I found.  A lot of the online games collect data during the sign-up process that would make it easy to steal peoples identity including the main form of identity for Americans – social security numbers!

The other day I saw a show called Insight about identity theft and they said all a person needs is a name, birth date and address.  To make it even easier for them a drivers license completes the set or, for Americans, a social security number.

The show said most people have their identity stolen when they lose their purse or wallet and they highlighted what a rich source of identification details personal computers are.

I smiled smugly as I thought of my computer security precautions. I run regular scans with a free antivirus programme and have a free firewall which I keep up to date.  I also have a free spyware programme called Spybot Search and Destroy which I run regularly and a little programme I have no idea where I got which monitors my register and tells me if anything tries to alter it.

On top of that I never use windows internet browser with its major security holes and I have add-ons that check the sites I go to and stop me from going to known trouble sites.

I never use my computer email programmes and do all my emails using online email programmes which means there are no email addresses on my computer for hackers to use and I don’t keep any of my banking information on my computer.

As the programme ran through all the resources available to hackers and identity thieves via people’s computers and the internet I was happily, and smugly, ticking them off.

Nope – I have no Facebook or My Space account.  I don’t use eBay or respond to phishing emails.  My date of birth and address are not online anywhere, not even on my own site, for anyone to use.

There is a lot of personal information on my site but nothing that could be used that way.  No dates, no names, no addresses.  As far as I was concerned, even if someone did access my computer, they would find very little of use.

Then the man on the telly said one word and I began to panic and hyperventilate!  The word was “resume”.  He said most people’s resume contains all the information needed for someone to steal their identity.

After the show I took a closer look at my document folder and I almost fainted.

Full name, date of birth, address, previous addresses, my work history, mothers maiden name, drivers license number, children’s names and dates of birth, it was all there and more!

We were going to apply to rent a house a while back and my kids had run low on printer ink so they scanned their medicare cards, bank statements and drivers licenses and emailed them to me.  I printed them out and forgot about them.  There they were, however, all on my computer – even a copy of my daughters birth certificate!

I quickly got rid of those but the resumes were a whole different kettle of fish.  I’m unwilling to remove those from my computer so my identity will stay at risk of being stolen for as long as I am connected to the internet!

It makes the idea of letting some stupid online game open a back door into my computer, even for a few minutes, seem extremely risky and idiotic!

It’s beginning to look like I will have to give up my online game addiction completely and that’s a blow.  Believe it or not I have been suffering withdrawal.  Those games allow me to leave all the stresses and hassles of work and life behind for hours at a time.

It has only been a few days and I am already feeling irritable and impatient.  Last night at work I was really struggling to control that irritation and impatience which is a real worry.

Not half as much a worry as the thought of someone getting hold of my identity and going on a credit spree or committing crimes the police will come looking to jail me for though.

Ever since I saw a site that showed how credit card companies will respond even to a torn up credit application I have preferred to play safe rather than risk being sorry.

If someone as cautious as me has put herself at risk because of these online games I hate to think what security risks my children have on their game filled computer!

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