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Guild Wars 2: Massive Banning and Hackings Prove Worrisome

Updated on September 12, 2012

Just over a week or so of playing Guild Wars 2 I find myself hacked. Majorly surprising because I have a large amount of computer security, I quickly went to get my account back and explore what was going on.

Firstly, I must say I was surprised by the difficulty I have been having trying to get my account back. I will outline all of the problems that have gone with trying to get it back, and the research that came from having such a bad time.

The result of the research was surprising. In a sample of just 4 days there had been at least 11,000 accounts hacked. Along with this were bans (of course) for gold selling. On further exploration though, I found a huge amount of banned accounts that had "done nothing wrong".

Update: Guild Wars 2 announces they had over 100,000 attempted hacks.

Guild Wars 2: Ban Happy?

Before researching, I had seen a few complaints around about Guild Wars 2 banning people. Rumors were flying that Guild Wars 2 moderators were banning for any little offence - in this case the word was also adopting suspension. However, the level of complaints was high and the level of offence was quite low. The least offensive thing I saw was someone who got a 3 day ban for saying the word "sh-t" in general chat. That seems a bit excessive.

The numbers are large: 3000 banned for an exploit, around 1500 that I found for small expletives in chat or having bad character names.

3000 Banned For Exploit:
Karma - a currency - vendors sell good items for appropriate prices. However in one vendor there was a very good item for only 27 karma, when it should have been something like 27000. There was a large group of people that found this and started putting it into the Mystic Forge, which combines items into different items, often lifting the no sell part of the item. This made a lot of people very rich. 3000 in fact. ArenaNet found out and permanently banned them immediately, no questions asked.

Going Overboard
I understand wanting to keep a certain community standard so to speak, however there are certain cases that seem overboard in the exploit category.

Kripparian has a Guild Wars 2 channel and found out that he could make Chilli Poppers for a cheap amount and sell them to a vendor for a high amount to make a high profit. In the video he says he doesn't think it is an exploit, but he was wrong. ArenaNet viewed this as an exploit and banned him. He was eventually unbanned, however it is an important case study for ArenaNet's banning policies.

My Hacked Ordeal

Firstly, lets start off with this. I completely understand risks of owning accounts and take many precautions to keep them safe. I have different passwords for everything, different usernames, and sometimes different emails. I understand spyware and malware completely and keep my computer free from them at all times. I have not fallen for any phishing attempts, and never will.

In fact, if you want more information on safeguarding your own computer I wrote an article here:
http://danieljohnston.hubpages.com/hub/Internet-Security-How-To-Safeguard-Your-Computer

Long story short, there is no reason why I should have been hacked on my side, so it must be ArenaNet's fault.

Whomever is to blame, I find the Guild Wars 2 fashion of dealing with it to be unsatisfactory and will outline what happened and what disappointments will be in store if you get hacked yourself.

The Long Road To Recovery

It all started out with trying to log in and being told they didn't find the email address. I thought I had put it in wrong, so I tried a few more times to no effect. Confused, I checked my email.

Your Email Address Has Been Changed

"Someone -hopefully you!- has requested to change the email address associated with your Guild Wars account."

What? I did not do this, and did not have to confirm from my old email? I have never seen that before, especially because I had to try for a week to get my email confirmed by them. How is this even possible? "Requested to change" also sounds like it hadn't happened yet, but it did.

Either way, I found the support form and filled it out.

Quick look around the internet and a few people have indicated it was hell trying to work with Guild Wars 2 and ArenaNet staff.

Day 2:
I got a reply:

"Please read this entire message as it will speed up the process to resolve this issue for you. This message is being sent to everyone reporting a possible account compromise. If you have not already included this information, please reply with the following information: 1. If your Guild Wars 2 account name has been changed, provide the account name (your secure email address) you want it changed back to.2. What is your complete Guild Wars 2 Display Name (if you have it)?3. What is your 25-digit Guild Wars 2 Serial Code?"

That seems reasonable. So, I send in the information and wait.

Day 3:
A response! However, it is a low quality copy and paste saying "We think you can find the information below".

Reset Password & E-mail Authentication************************************
If you were previously experiencing an issue resetting your password or authenticating your email address, please follow the directions below.

1. Go to [broken link]
2. In the “Email / Account Name” field, enter the email address used for your Guild Wars 2 account.
3. In the “Serial Code” field, enter the serial code you registered to the account.
4. In the “Character Name” field, enter the name of an existing character on your account.
5. Click “Verify.”
Be sure to set your account password to a strong, unique password that you've never used anywhere else!
See this comic [nonexistant link] for advice on picking a strong, unique password.

Additional information regarding the Guild Wars Account E-mail Authentication System can be found here: [link]"

This had a lot of other things attached that were not helpful either, such as other information on phishing and scamming, etc.

Of course, the recovery process doesn't work if your email is changed, which of course was my primary complaint. The fact that they sent me a generic email stating to use my old email to recover my password was both insulting, a waste of time, and ridiculous.

Day 4: No reply. I clarify this is a hacking case because it seems to not be viewed as such.
Day 5: No reply.
Day 6: No reply. Resent clarification along with resending account info - Guild Wars 2 webpage says hacked accounts have priority and should be resolved in 24 hours, yet it has been almost a week of not being able to play.
Day 7: No Reply. Submitted another ticket. Got the same automated answer as I got from the copy paste, just cleaner and not from a 'real person'. Not happy.
Day 7, 7PM: Account Restored! Rush to log in and it doesn't work, email still is not right. Also, in the letter I notice:

"Please be aware that the Support Team is unable to restore any missing characters or items."

What? I spent over 12 hours a day for almost 2 weeks on that account. Assuming they deleted my characters to make it so I couldn't recover,
Day 7: 7:25 PM: Email confirmation letter sent, and resolved issue. Access restored.

Was this because I submitted a second ticket? It didn't show up in the second ticket's thread. Who knows, but that was pretty stressful. If it was an error with the first ticket, then having the second ticket answered so soon was amazing.

How To Avoid A Ban

I would write about how to avoid getting hacked, but knowing that information doesn't seem to help. Of course, there is the article linked above if you want to know what you should do in theory.

What I can tell you is how to not get banned.

1. Watch your words. Freedom of Speech is limited by time, place, and manner. In this place, it is highly limited. In general chat or anything to people you do not know, make sure you watch your language.

2. Speak in guild chat or voice servers. They don't moderate guild chat, and cannot do anything if you speak through a voice client like Ventrilo or Mumble.

3. If it looks too good to be true, it might be. Keep quiet if you find something great, and don't do it much if you are afraid it might be an exploit.

These rules are good for any game but especially for one so heavily moderated and unafraid of banning people. If you are banned, there are forms to fill out to get unbanned if it really was a mistake - they were so ban happy that they banned someone talking to a moderator. This person was just reporting an incident, but he was banned copy pasting it to the moderator. After filling out an unban request they found he was in the right and reinstated the account.

A Slight Worry

Guild Wars 2 does not have a subscription fee. This is amazing, and makes it so more people can play it. However this leads to the worrisome part - MMOs like World Of Warcraft take time to understand problems and are more forgiving because they get paid to. However, Guild Wars 2 has no incentive. Why should they care? In fact, if you like the game so much you may even buy a second copy for a new account, increasing their profits. They could actually make a lot of profit off banning people.

I am not saying this is what they are doing, but it is an interesting circumstance to think about.

Also, just a note: You can give Guild Wars 2 money for Gems, a cash shop currency - however this price is so low in game for gold it is pointless to buy it with real money.

It doesn't matter if you agree with their banning policy or not - its important to know the rules and follow them so you don't end up losing your $60+.

Complaints:

1. Obvious copy paste of support answers.2. No timely responses.
3. No phone support.
4. Faulty advice.
5. Bad URLs and information in copy pasted answers or guides on website itself.
6. Because it is such a big deal: Time waited. With all the given information, to have a wrong copy paste given to me and not have it resolved quickly is just wrong.

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