Second Life. Again.23/08/2007 Written by minor
Second Life is real phenomenon — it is not only virtual world or place for online fun. It seems, it’s a place for business, fun, leisure… But if you think, it’s ideal world, forget it. It is not. Second Life seems to get diseases from Internet or real world and as we already stated in article about Second Life, it needs strong regulations, otherwise there will be more problems.
Just consider, online gambling on the Internet is widespread and daily you find lot of spam messages, which tell you about gambling possibilities. Casinos and other hazard games arrived also into Second Life. Since everything there is only piece of code, it might be created to make profit for the publisher of the game, not for the player.
And this is exactly the point. Everything is only code. I can create nice objects, but inside of them, there can be lot of “garbage”, that can help my profit to groove up. In real world one would say, I’m a cheater, but in Second Life? Answer is already here, but wait for another point of view…
…and that is, that online gambling is in United States illegal, therefore Federal Bureau of Investigation had run investigation in Second Life, if there is some criminal activity or breaking laws regarding online gambling. And then, Linden Lab decided to shut down all hazard and casinos. No other news were published about if someone got arrested because of that.
As Robin Linden in his Second Life blog wrote: “Linden Lab and Second Life Residents must comply with state and federal laws applicable to regulated online gambling, even when both operators and players of the games reside outside of the US”. He also added, that all users have to follow the “Policy Regarding Wagering in Second Life”, that says:
It is a violation of this policy to wager in games in the Second Life ® environment operated on Linden Lab servers if such games:
(1) (a) rely on chance or random number generation to determine a winner,
(b) rely on the outcome of real-life organized sporting events,
(2) provide a payout in
(a) Linden Dollars,
(b) any real-world currency or thing of value.
This includes (but is not limited to), for example, Casino Games such as:
o Pai Gow
o Sic Bo
o Slot machines
It also includes Sports Books or Sports Betting, including the placing of bets on actual sporting events against a book-maker or through a betting exchange.
Linden Lab will actively enforce this policy. If we discover gambling activities that violate the policy, we will remove all related objects from the inworld environment, may suspend or terminate the accounts of residents involved without refund or payment, and may report any relevant details, including user information, to authorities and financial institutions.
Now you can see, that creators have to apply special policies for users: law is not enough in virtual world. If you read also the FAQ to Wagering games, you will find that: “Linden Lab’s policy is not intended to identify which gambling activities may be legal where you live, and we cannot provide legal advice to you. Because gambling activities may be controlled by the law where the bettor lives in some places, and in others affect the operators of wagering games, we have decided to take a broader approach by prohibiting all games that meet the criteria in our policy.”
As the FAQ also states
“It has been a basic tenet of Second Life that all Residents are legally responsible for their own activities and for complying with the laws of the local jurisdiction in which they reside.” This indicates, that you can perform activities, if they are legal in your country, but don’t forget, that Second Life “resides” in United States, and you probably have to comply also U.S. laws. And you can be sure that not only illegal gambling activities are observed by intelligence services in Second Life.
I will now return back to previous Second Life article, where we say, that Second Life seems to be “a good medium for money laundering or terrorists’ found raising”. Our theory assumes that if you transfer some money over such media, it can be unobserved to investigators, if you transfer it in small amount.
Now, please, stop here and think about it. Is it true, that terrorists and other criminals will risk their anonymity and enter virtual ground for meetings, transferring knowledge, plans, money…? Remember the fact, that every new technology is well observed by criminals and inspected, if there is a possibility for misuse of many ways for another activities. Then answer will be yes. And Linden Lab, that has also team that checks financial transactions in Second Life could, has not ruled out the possibility, that terrorists are using it to money transfer.
Fact is, that pan-European police agency Europol believes Second Life provides a means to transfer money borderless with difficult possibility to monitor it. Importance of it was underlined with recruiting security consultants to advise on the use of Second Life for fraud and terrorism. Also another units that are dealing with digital crime understood the possibilities and aspects of crime hidden in virtual world. Internet is really big media, but virtual reality gives a chance to be hidden in more effective way.
On the other hand, Kevin Zuccato, Australian High Tech Crime Centre head said on security industry conference, this is the right time to think about living, working and protecting two worlds and two realities. But, should we protect virtual world, where rules are set by company that created it?
Criminal activities in Second Life can look like that :
“The bomb hit the ABC’s headquarters, destroying everything except one digital transmission tower. The force of the blast left Aunty’s site a cratered mess. Just weeks before, a group of terrorists flew a helicopter into the Nissan building, creating an inferno that left two dead. Then a group of armed militants forced their way into an American Apparel clothing store and shot several customers before planting a bomb outside a Reebok store.”
Can you imagine, this will be performed in real world? This will indicate, that surveillance and intelligence fails to recognize the terrorists on time, laws are about to be useless. But Second Life is ruled by Terms of service, there are for sure secret agents of intelligence services, but the criminal groups are of course not using only Second Life to communicate. Only if the virtual world operator allows the authorities to investigate the “backend”, see the logs, IP addresses of users, their communication and data flow, even then it would be hard to find out, if is something in preparation or not.
Second Life has more than 8 millions of registered users from which about 500.000 are using it actively. But who is really behind the avatars-perpetrators of such virtual criminal deeds? (are that criminal deeds?) Are that really terrorists? Or just kids that want to have (“strange”) fun?
Real terrorists will not show them here on such stupid way. Maybe they are using virtual worlds for trainings, spreading information, but to perform virtual nuke? Virtual reality can be restored again, no one was really injured, only shocked, when watching it… That’s all.
In real world we know, what is the difference between nuke attack and “defacing” a poster of politician, that someone doesn’t like. Thousands of dead civilians, devastation that cannot be undone. And poster, that will be anyway scratched down after the elections are over. Quite big difference.
And in the virtual world? It seems, there is no difference. It’s only piece of code. Then virtual nuke attack and defacing John Edwards HQ in Second Life are on the same level. Or (I’m sorry for writing this) flying penises that attacked for 15 minutes virtual interview on CNET building in Second Life… Remember, piece of code…
We should not forget, what is going on in virtual reality like Second Life. There is a need to observe it and try to find criminals that are hiding inside. Like on Internet. But we should not forget, where the border, which is splitting real and digital world is. I prefer real world. With laws. During this summer I visited live show of my favorite band. That experience is unspeakable. At least there were no flying penises attacking the band or visitors…