Last night while surfing the Second Life forums I noticed a familiar-sounding thread title: “Grid Under Attack“. Seems as if the availability of free account sign-ups has brought its share of script kiddies and griefers (or maybe just made it easier for repeat offenders to get new accounts). And like the last one, this was an attack of the self-replicating (and poorly-textured) spheres; a rather simplistic but dynamic bit of programming which probably makes it intriguing for noobs. For anyone who’s wondering what a simple computer virus looks like in a virtual world, the above image (snapped in-world by SL resident Alyssa Bijoux) is a pretty good example.
Unlike the last grid attack however, this one was contained in an interesting fashion: Linden Lab created a “firebreak“. In other words, to prevent the self-replicating objects from bouncing their way across borders into uninfected regions (each computer server/sim borders on another server), they simply cut off access (or as described over on Clickable Culture, they erected a “virtual firewall” – I like that). You can see the fireline on the image of the virtual world map (courtesy SL resident Broken Templar) here –
Now this is all well and good, but the truth of the matter is that this attack was about as unsophisticated as they come. I like the solution, but I have little doubt griefers will get more creative; there’s nothing stopping someone from creating a number of strategically-placed “timebombs”. What was really needed was more drastic action, and it appears to have finally come. From an announcement today by Ginsu Linden over on the Second Life forum:
In the last month there have been several attacks in which users of Second Life have intentionally released objects or taken actions intended to disrupt activity in the Second Life grid. These attacks result in substantial real-world economic harm, and Linden Lab intends to protect its interests using all legal means.
Although most people using Second Life are enjoying the fun and creativity that the platform provides, a few malicious individuals are intentionally acting to impair some or all of the Second Life grid. Please note that personal and account information of these individuals will be disclosed to appropriate law enforcement agencies for further investigation, including U.S. state and federal authorities and agencies in applicable international jurisdictions.
Now things are getting interesting. Let’s see how this pans out. This may be just the sort of protective action that convinces real world companies to poke their toes in the virtual water.