They do exist!

So a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog regarding social engineering and how apparently easy it is to get information.  I didn’t think that someday soon, something would happen to me that could compromise my identity, at least not so soon.  It was in the form of an innocent child and his new favorite game World of Warcraft.

A few months ago, Luke became fascinated with TV ads about a game called “Pirates of the Caribbean Online” which he saw just about every break while watching the Disney Channel.  He played it for a few weeks and got bored.  It was fun, but there were limited things to do.  You could customize your pirate, but at the time, you could only learn a few skills and everyone upgraded and leveled up the same 5 basic skillsets.  After about a month he asked “What is the point?”  That’s when I started introducing him to some of the classics in the gaming world, Warcraft and Starcraft (I thought he’d have nightmares about Diablo).  He really liked those too, but he wasn’t as keen on the action, it wasn’t as interesting.  He wanted to just be fighting, not having to direct a mini-city.  He’s much more into the “shooter” type games.  So recently he asked about a game I mentioned while he was playing Pirates Online, where he could play online and be an orc or a knight (I simplified for his sake).  So, last weekend, I got him set up with a free trial of World of Warcraft, and he loves it.  I’m sure this will last a little longer than the Pirates foray, because there are always new races and classes to try, but I don’t expect too long, but I wanted him to be able to keep playing at least for a little bit.  I’m all about RPGs over shooters, I think it’s more important to think things through than just mashing buttons quicker than your enemies. 

This week I decided to put in $20 for him to get the full program and then told him he could pay the $15 a month for as long as he wanted to pay.  He’ll get a free two months out of it in the end, so I figure that’ll be enough to figure out if he really likes it or not.  Not 2 days after this happened, I came home to ‘Amy, I have to tell you something.’  Now to set the scene, he was having a really hard time getting his hunter to level 10 so that he could learn to tame pets.  I told him to do quests but ‘they’re too hard’ which translates to ‘I don’t want to actually read the text and figure out where the people are I have to deal with so I’ll wait until you can do it for me’.  So he’s not unlike most of the gamers out there who’d just as soon beg for money and kill stuff to level up.  Questing is and always has been, the best way.  So what did he have to tell me?  He tells me the story: “Well, I was trying to level up, and this guy said he could help me out, so he asked for my username and password and I gave it to him.  I got my pet!”  I had just enough wherewithal to keep from freaking out and strangling him, told him to log out NOW and move, so I could get in to change passwords immediately.  Then we had another talk about giving people information about themselves, and explained that this person could find out where we live, they could do all sorts of stuff.  We had this conversation a few times before, and he had just had a school assembly about it, AND a mouse pad sitting right next to him telling him things to not do when online.  I know he knew it was a boneheaded thing to do, and I’m sure he’s been scared in to learning his lesson, so I’m glad I didn’t freak out, that wouldn’t have helped.   He was also invited to go to a website shortly after all of this, he asked about it first, which made me happy.  I told him that he shouldn’t ever go to a website they talk about on there without checking with me first.  After all, he’s only a fourth grader, and I know what’s out there.

I learned a few things in this.  It reinforced that your security is only as strong as your weakest point of entry.  It has to be drilled into kids’ minds what they should not be doing when online, not just once or twice, it needs to be second nature.  I think a little fear doesn’t hurt either, so this was a good lesson.  I also learned that I am very fortunate that most of the World of Warcraft site was down that day and little harm could have been done, but even still, they have done a good job of keeping things secure.  They do not show a lot of information.  They show the first name and first letter of last name, and they do not show the physical street information.  City state and zip are shown, so it wouldn’t take much to go through a process of elimination unless you were in a huge city, which we’re not, but I do feel better that they too are concerned about safety.

So now this week’s lesson is going to have to be about gold farmers, scammers and people telling you to go to sites to download programs.  I have to find that happy medium between figuring out how to tell him about the dangers out there without freaking him out and him becoming one of those kids with the tin hats.    Remember, it is THAT easy.