Because the universe loves comedic irony, Diablo III's online infrastructure specifically put in place to keep out cheaters and hackers is currently being besieged by cheaters and hackers. Yesterday, Blizzard acknowledged the issue, and today, the damage control process has officially begun. From where I'm standing, though, it leaves out one very important step: the part where it, you know, actually solves the problem in the long run. Perplexingly, the multiplayer-loving megalith has opted to calm players by pointing out that account compromises skyrocket with new game releases, ala WoW expansions. Fair enough. But why, again, is it supposed to be reassuring if it keeps happening?
Blizzard outlined its approach to hacking and slashing the hacker menace that plagues its hack 'n' slash in a forum post:
"Historically, the release of a new game - such as a World of Warcraft expansion - will result in an increase in reports of individual account compromises, and that's exactly what we're seeing now with Diablo III. We know how frustrating it can be to become the victim of account theft, and as always, we're dedicated to doing everything we can to help our players keep their Battle.net accounts safe -- and we appreciate everyone who's doing their part to help protect their accounts as well."
"We've been taking the situation extremely seriously from the start, and have done everything possible to verify how and in what circumstances these compromises are occurring. Despite the claims and theories being made, we have yet to find any situations in which a person's account was not compromised through traditional means of someone else logging into their account through the use of their password. While the authenticator isn't a 100% guarantee of account security, we have yet to investigate a compromise report in which an authenticator was attached beforehand."
The developer suggests players either contact its support department or tie accounts to an Authenticator, which it still touts as "[one] of the most effective measures we offer to help players protect themselves against account compromises." On that front, however, Blizzard's response is especially odd, given that we've been hearing reports of hackers working their dark magics unimpeded by Blizzard's supposedly unassailable data fortress. The implication on Blizzard's end, then, is that its servers are secure and players managed to get strung up in some keylogger's web, while many disgruntled players are making claims to the direct contrary.
Meanwhile, if you've been hacked, Blizzard's offering rollbacks to restore lost items - though sheer volume has obviously slowed down the process quite a bit.
As of now, Blizzard still plans to roll out the real money auction house on May 29, but I've sent a mail to find out if the potential ticking time bomb that is sticky fingered thieves and access to credit card information could derail the launch even further. Regardless, it's far from a promising state of affairs, and Blizzard's "Well, you know, these things happen" attitude toward the matter has caused my credit card to scamper under my bed and begin whimpering in abject terror.
Sure, maybe Blizzard's being honest and all these people were simply careless with their data. But even so, we're talking about an upcoming service that allows people to freely buy and sell items using - and I can't stress this enough - real money. The stakes are much, much higher now. Drop the ball from up here, and it's probably not coming back. So, Blizzard's fault or not, something needs to be done. Otherwise, the current rash of stolen virtual identities will probably be looked back on fondly. Like - oh, off the top of my head - a walk through the park on a balmy spring day that you didn't have to miss in order to sit inside and spend hours on the phone securing all your personal information.