Monday, April 23, 2012
The Voodoo Curse
A little over a year ago, Second Life was hit by the Redzone controversy. For those not familiar, Redzone was an alt detector that worked by scanning IP adresses, and banning avatars from a hit list shared through the services' security systems. It raised privacy concerns as in theory a stalker could track someone this way. Plus it didn't really work as IP adresses can change, and the wrong person could and was mistaken for the target and blacklisted. In response came "Greenzone," which detected which areas were covered by Redzone. Eventually, Linden Lab reacted against Redzone. Redzone's creator zFire threatened to retaliate, and was soon banned from Second Life.
zFire once boasted if Redzone was ever banned, another alt detector would replace it. And in an interview with Paisley Beebe in March 2011, one of Team Greenzone mentioned there were a few systems that claimed to do what Redzone did. So even though Redzone was gone, would something else take its place?
Recently Treminari Huet, a Second Life blogger and one of the first to warn about Redzone, came to me about another alt detector: Voodoo.
Voodoo's "anti-bot" system advertises itself as "most effective at deterring … people using … (alts) to cheat games, grievers, and avatars known to cause problems," saying this was a way to deter cheaters at contests and games whom would otherwise enter multiple times in contests, and thus get the alts' owner a bigger share of the money.
In the early days of the products life cycle there was a big bot problem in Second Life around the TMY sploders which were originally designed to attract traffic to locations and provide small amounts of money to residents. Scripted bots would fill regions and take the money.
Voodoo's systems have changed that. Since the beginning we have been exploring new ways of detection and ways to reduce false positives and we have increased support resources. Our purpose is to enforce fair play and make gaming a better experience for everyone.
Forceme Silverspar and Examiner writer Douglas Green, both written in Summer 2011. Green's issue with Voodoo was it's role as a 'Sploder security system, as any form of gambling in Second Life was technically illegal. Forceme Silverspar decided to take a closer look at Voodoo to check the worries of some in Greenzone if this was indeed a second "Redzone." She checked the system and noted that the Voodoo Sploder gave those nearby a warning that those wishing to be verified to play would have their IP address revealed to Voodoo. While she felt Voodoo could have been more clear about it, she concluded this was a fair warning. Plus she found "no evidence whatsoever of any sharing of … alt data outside of 'Voodoo.' " Of the ban list, Forceme stated, "this should not be called 'Anti-bot' but rather 'Anti-anyone we Voodoo people don't like." Of the question whether or not Voodoo was using the same media loophole as Redzone, she concluded probably not.
In the end, Forceme concluded Voodoo was most likely no big deal, except being a poor product for the purchaser, "the whole Anti-bot device is a joke, don't bother …. and to those who have had their name put in because Voodoo doesn't like them, and that means they are banned from using the sploders and going on land that runs the Anti-bot device, yeah, whatever."
In her first article about Voodoo, Treminari noted that the Greenzone HUD reacts to a Voodoo sploder "like it would any Redzone-like system." But only the wearer of the HUD gets the alert. She tried testing Voodoo for a "media exploit." Going about the few locations she could find that used Voodoo sploders, "I did find attempts in media to send to a specific IP and port number … " but, " … I was unable to rule out what I did see recurring as the possibility of other products that set media URLs, such as a harmless shoutcast DJ board." She concluded her tests were inconclusive.
Treminari was ready to just leave Voodoo alone, then came another development. Talking to her, she described Voodoo's owner Monkey Wonder as entering the Greenzone chat and stirring up arguments, "just because the group has a few anal members, its like anything else. You kick the hornets nest, most of them are going to sting you. He kicked the hornets nest ,making it regular business to enter the group and troll its members and pick fights with them." Monkey did have a right to defend his product, but Treminari felt he was going too far, ".... he did have a right to complain, until he started threatening the groups members and businesses that participate as a whole."
The threat was in a notecard Monkey Wonder passed around to various members of the Greenzone group.
Dear Greenzone griefing group member,
Following mass defamation, griefing, propoganda, scamming and false abuse reports initiated by members of Greenzone griefing group recently on a scale never before seen in SL, Voodoo has taken the decision to protect our customers and other residents of Second Life from your activities.
Greenzone once had a legitimate purpose in Second Life, protecting the privacy of residents from systems such as Red Zone.
Red Zone is long gone, and Greenzone now operates more like the Anonymous hacking collective. The moderators have lost control, and the group is now a leaderless organisation that anyone with a grudge can join to attack others in the name of Greenzone.
Voodoo produces an extremely popular free Sploder tracking HUD which is owned by thousands and used everyday by many people, we have a user base of over 40,000 avatars. The next version of these HUDs, to be released imminently, will announce any nearby Greenzone griefers in local chat by name, along with any land owned by these griefers and any objects created by them. We believe your creations and land are not safe as you are a member of a group well known for griefing.
We do however understand that there is a minority of legitimate business owners currently in the griefing group, who joined long before Greenzone was hijacked by trouble makers. Due to this, we are allowing 12 hours for you to leave the group and avoid any damage to your business.
Voodoo has been at the forefront of SL security for many years and we take it and peoples privacy very seriously.
We do not wish to become ememies of any group, but we simply cannot tolerate people who choose to attack or scam others.
Thank you for your understanding and please make the right decision.
Owner of Voodoo SL
At this point, the nature of the debate changed. Treminari in her article called Monkey Wonder's statement, " 'leave your discussion group or I will do something very bad to you,' obviously meant to coerce people into leaving, which is the very definition of blackmail: 'to force or coerce into a particular action.'" In my conversations with her, "He sent the threat to the whole group, and said he would be setting up his HUD to slander any members present. I take threats directed at me wether it be directly at me or what I have membership in very seriously." She felt concerning his actions, Linden Labs had only one realistic option, "he crossed a line you don't cross, so I will be seeking at the very least his removal from the Grid."
Joining the group to get more information, the reaction of the group was disbelief, and anger, an Anguissette Resident stating, "Leave the group or they'll blackban my products? My products are widely sold. That will anger a lot of product owners. In all my travels through SL, I have only encountered two Voodoo products. One was at the Voodoo creators shop, and slandered me in local chat as a copybot, which of course I am not. The other was in a very unsuccessful and empty club, and wasn't working, according to the error messages it flooded local chat with. I have never griefed anyone. Any claims I have ever made about voodoo were based solely on fact and what Monkey himself told me. That is not griefing. I will not stand by and let him label me as a griefer. I will not let him threaten me and my business. I will not bow down to threats of blackmail. I will not be slandered and abused. Monkey must abide by not only the TOS, but also the laws of the countries he trades in, both his own and that of his customers. I hope he is reading what we are writing here today. I will be ARing this notecard, on the many infractions of TOS. … I can't believe he's asserting that someone's land might not be safe if they purchase something from my shop. That just makes my blood boil. I make cards and funny signs. Is a greeting card that sends you a hug a weapon of mass destruction now? … I won't be leaving the group. Report that to your leader, Monkey boys. And every time I or something I created or own gets blacklisted, I will file an AR."
After I asked for information, I was IMed by one member of the group. He claimed that a number of "Greenzone proponents" were former members of Woodbury, an infamous group that Linden Labs has banned from the Grid. He cautioned me to watch out for anti-JLU (Justice League Unlimited) propaganda, but I noticed none that night, or as of the writing of this article or any night I observed Greenzone chatter.
One Greenzone member, Unya Tigerfish, sent out a notecard that appeared in a group notice not long after Treminari first contacted me on the matter.
Dear members of the GZ group!
Recently I have revisited the Voodoo products, and to my positive surprise I noticed that Monkey Wonder has in fact adapted many privacy features and thereby relieved a lot of the concerns regarding privacy that were the reasons for this group to fight against the products.
Therefor, I personally contacted Monkey Wonder and we agreed that I should give him a list of the remaining few items that we think were still in violation of privacy. Were those addressed, we would be happy to clear Voodoo products from our "Bad" list. Our talk ended cordially in a truce.
Only a week after this talk, before I was finished compiling this list, members of the Greenzone group are receiving a blackmail: "leave GZ group within 12 hours or you, your items, and your creations will be blacklisted"
I personally feel betrayed! We as the GZ group have pride!
And we will not bow to blackmail!
The GZ group is no griefer group! Therefor, I would like to suggest that everyone of you who is subject to the blackmail of Monkey Wonder, AR him, and whoever is subject to his announced griefing in local chat, AR the person owning the offending device.
Monkey Wonder, consider our talks cancelled. You have shown that you are no man of honour, but instead a blackmailing criminal.
Heading to Voodoo's office in Voodoo City, Morenci (213, 207, 22), I came across a couple of Monkey's staff. When I asked one about Greenzone, he didn't seem to know what was going on, "green zone, are they making trouble again?" " 'Again?' You have some trouble with them before?" "lol nothing much. … guess if you want info like that, you'll have to talk to the boss." And he told me they would get in touch with Monkey Wonder. A couple days later when I appeared in the office again, he was there.
I asked about trouble between he and Greenzone, and he answered, "Yes it started a long time ago when they misunderstood how our products work and blacklisted us and our customers with their hud. the gz hud says 'Spyware detected' when it sees anything created by me." Telling him of their wondering of a possible similarity to Redzone, "voodoos main thing is the sploder game. we are very strict about cheating. we ban a lot of avatars who try to cheat, so we have enemies. when someone wants to get at us, they join greenzone. so gz is fed false info from these people. without investigation, we were blacklisted by them. if everyone is guilty until proven innocent, why are we targeted? … for months members of the group have lied repeatedly to try to damage us .. they send notecards to our customers saying our products are illegal, they visit my shop. so we decided to implement a similar blacklist."
Of the charges of him sending a notecard to various Greenzone members, Monkey Wonder admitted it, "yes i sent a warning to green zone members explaining what we intended to do. The nc said we would implement the system in 12 hours but it was more like 48. we will be targeting other griefer groups also, to warn our customers and members." "So 48 hours for 'legitimate business owners' to leave, or else?" "voodoo is a security business. 12 hours until we blacklist members of this group because the group is well known for causing grief to other residents." I responded that I hadn't heard of any problems with Greenzone since the Redzone controversy. "Maybe you should talk to the JLU," Monkey responded.
When asked about Unya Tigerfish and if they talked, "yes she is a moderator at green zone, we spoke and talked about changes that could be made to our systems. … She made some vague claim she was going to talk to others and get a list of changes, then nothing happened ... the problem is, there are a lot of people in the group now who are not interested in privacy, they just want to try and damage us in revenge for being banned. you turned my warning on me and said it was a threat, but greenzone have already carried out their action before any warning and now we are blackmailed to make changes or stay on their blacklist. we didn't get a warning."
Monkey Wonder claimed, "6 people have come to me so far and asked to stay in the group and not be blacklisted by us 'because they are in the group to monitor their activities and prevent attacks by them.' it is a griefer group." "So you're not banning everyone in the group?" "i'm not banning anyone unless they grief, but everyone in the group is blacklisted and announced by our tracker HUD."
Monkey Wonder concluded his side of the matter, "voodoo is a gaming and security business, we are not out to invade anyones privacy and really we don't care who anyone is .. we are just concerned with keep the integrity of our games through fair play. i am not a criminal as unya thinks. i am a programmer who makes SL gaming systems for a hobby. … it is not a scam operation. it is a fun thing for people and we have built a big community. The group is about 3000 strong, and we have a userbase of 40,000 … people who have ever played our games, or been customers. the key problem is the group is full of people with the only agenda of revenge."
The meeting seemed to end on a cordial note. But later, Treminari contacted me again and pointed out Voodoo had put me and her on his blacklist. Later on in one of the rare moments I made a comment in the Greenzone chat, when I told someone Treminari had blogged about the controversy and I would be writing an article, a "Killer Sugarplum" responded, "amazing, Bixyl, you represent yourself as a reporter when you had your mind made up before you ever talked to both sides, your reputation isn't worth crap." Treminari had told me she suspected Killer was one of Monkey Wonder's alt accounts.
Chatting with Treminari, she felt what Monkey Wonder did deserved more than just a boot from the Grid, "If Linden Lab don't ban him, I will be getting in contact with the FBI regarding this. I contacted the FBI regarding zFire. The appropriate action for dealing with him is exactly the same." She felt Monkey Wonder deserved "criminal prosecution" for his threats, "He's running a gambling operation on a California based service and threatened an entire group. And (he) was knowledgable he was threatening innocent people too, even says so in the notecard with the statement about innocent business owners. Even if it's a baseless threat, its still a threat nonetheless. And also it reflects on his lack of ethic in his business practice that he would even consider doing such a thing: integrating a slander tool with his HUD. So it really goes to show his SL bot protect ban list ain't to be trusted."
Legal issues aside, Monkey Wonder and Voodoo may soon have a problem on their hands. Keeping an eye on the Greenzone chatter, there were numerous residents stating they were filing ARs against Monkey Wonder. One of the group posted what Voodoo was saying about her: GRIEFER WARNING: This land is owned by (name of resident), who is blacklisted by Voodoo for being a member of Greenzone Griefer Group. The parcel is not safe. If as many people are sending ARs as I noticed, let alone when I wasn't online, the sheer number is almost certainly going to be at least looked into by Linden Lab. What they'll do about Voodoo and it's owner, that's yet to be seen.
Voodoo is not looking like another "Redzone," but it's owner's actions have created a controversy that will take Linden Lab to resolve.
Sources: Treminari's Secondlife Blog, Forceme Silverspar's Adventures in Second Life, The Examiner, Voodoo