Second Life. Again.

23/08/2007 Written by minor

slSec­ond 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,

OR

(b) rely on the out­come of real-​life orga­nized sport­ing events,

AND

(2) pro­vide a pay­out in
(a) Lin­den Dol­lars,
OR
(b) any real-​world cur­rency or thing of value.

This includes (but is not lim­ited to), for exam­ple, Casino Games such as:
o Bac­carat
o Black­jack
o Craps
o Faro
o Keno
o Pachinko
o Pai Gow
o Poker
o Roulette
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…


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