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01-04-10, 09:34 PM   #1
tralkar
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Warcraft helps catch a crook

January 4 1:26 P.M.


Warcraft helps extend the reach of law enforcement.
Criminals can run, but they can't hide. Especially if they play World of Warcraft.

Just ask Alfred Hightower. Having successfully left the country to avoid being nabbed for dealing drugs, the fugitive figured he was home free. But thanks to his insistence on keeping up with his World of Warcraft habit, Hightower was tracked down by authorities and is now in custody, reports The Kokomo Perspective.

The saga begins in 2007, when Indiana's Howard County Sheriff's Department issued a warrant for Hightower's arrest on charges of dealing in multiple controlled substances. U.S. Marshals were unable to locate the suspect, although a tip placed him in Canada.

According to Howard County deputy Matt Roberson, authorities came upon the Warcraft connection during their investigation into Hightower's background.

“We received information that this guy was a regular player of an online game, which was referred to as ‘some warlock and witches’ game,” he told The Perspective. “None of that information was sound enough to pursue on its own, but putting everything we had together gave me enough evidence to send a subpoena to Blizzard Entertainment. I knew exactly what he was playing — World of Warcraft. I used to play it. It’s one of the largest online games in the world.”

Blizzard played ball, giving up Hightower's account history, IP address, screen name, billing address and preferred game server. One Google Earth search later, and Canadian authorities had apprehended Hightower in Ottowa, Ontario.

“You hear stories about you can’t get someone through the Internet,” said Roberson. “Guess what??You can. I just did. Here you are, playing World of Warcraft, and you never know who you’re playing with.”

Warcraft is just the latest ally in gaming's war against crime. Several weeks ago, police tracked down a New York thief by tracing his online gaming on a stolen Xbox. Federal officials have even begun using Sony's Playstation 3 to crack passwords used by child ****ographers.
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01-04-10, 10:17 PM   #2
Dolby
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I have mixed feelings on this I think.

I love that Blizzard was able to help take down a criminal. I think that's great.

Just kind of scares me Blizzard gave up that info, yeah it was to the authorities but still doesnt sit right with me. Maybe I'm just being too paranoid.
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01-04-10, 10:42 PM   #3
Sythalin
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Originally Posted by Dolby View Post
I have mixed feelings on this I think.

I love that Blizzard was able to help take down a criminal. I think that's great.

Just kind of scares me Blizzard gave up that info, yeah it was to the authorities but still doesnt sit right with me. Maybe I'm just being too paranoid.
No, I totally agree. I'm glad the guy was caught, but the fact that Blizzard violated it's own user agreement to not disclose player info to 3rd parties bothers me. By the sounds of it, it was a bull**** subpoena with no grounds other than "some witches and warlocks" game. Seriously, first thought I had was D&D, not WoW.

“None of that information was sound enough to pursue on its own, but putting everything we had together gave me enough evidence to send a subpoena to Blizzard Entertainment. I knew exactly what he was playing — World of Warcraft. I used to play it. It’s one of the largest online games in the world.”
Translation: I was addicted to WOW before and have a hunch that he may play it too. I got lucky, because if he didn't play my ass probably would've been sued.

Now that this has been "successful", what stops them from going further?

We still haven't been able to find this serial killer. Reliquish any and all accounts having <insert name here> as their registered name.
<name> has a bench warrant for multiple traffic violations, but has since moved. We need to access your database to get his new current address.
We need to get a hold of a potential witness to a crime last week, but all we have is a name. We have a court order for you to give us all the users in <insert area> with the name <insert name> so that we establish contact.
Again, I'm not against catching criminals. Far from it. But if a gaming company is not going to have the balls to protect my privacy that they promise to, whether criminal or otherwise, then Blizzard will lose me.... PERMANENTLY.

Honestly, as I reread the last paragraph, I'm starting to get pissed. Obviously the government has gotten completely insane with this whole "you have no privacy" crap. And you thought that the old hippy down the road was nuts, didn't you?

Well, it's looking like he was right. Seriously? Accessing PS3's and Xbox's hooked to an internet connection?

11 million customers (roughly) registered to play WoW. Chances that a person plays? Pretty good. If this activity is going to continue to be permitted, it's going to become a standard investigation policy to subpoena every online game currently running at the time in an attempt to find someone. Wanna kill online gaming? Keep invading privacy agreements like this and it sure as hell will.

Gonna shut up now. I'm now pissed after thinking about this more deeply and now I'm rambling. Anyone who has the name "John Smith" has my condolences, because you guys are the first ones that are gonna get screwed if there is ever a criminal sought with that name.
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01-04-10, 11:14 PM   #4
Farm Fresh
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There had to be more evidence than just "he plays an online game" since they had to have something to compare the data Blizz gave them too accurately enough to find him. I have nothing to hide, so if Blizz wants to give up my info because it may help catch a criminal, by all means. What do I care? Subpoenas are not taken as lightly as they are in TV Dramas. This wasn't just an impulse.
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01-04-10, 11:55 PM   #5
Vyper
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Originally Posted by Dolby View Post
Just kind of scares me Blizzard gave up that info, yeah it was to the authorities but still doesnt sit right with me. Maybe I'm just being too paranoid.
The keyword here is "subpoena". In other words, they had enough information to convince a judge that this information was important to a criminal case. This is no different than your bank giving up your bank records when subpoenaed.

Originally Posted by ChaosInc View Post
But if a gaming company is not going to have the balls to protect my privacy that they promise to, whether criminal or otherwise, then Blizzard will lose me.... PERMANENTLY.
What promise? From the world of warcraft terms of use:
C. Blizzard may, with or without notice to you, disclose your Internet Protocol (IP) address(es), personal information, Chat logs, and other information about you and your activities: (a) in response to a request by law enforcement, a court order or other legal process; or (b) if Blizzard believes that doing so may protect your safety or the safety of others.
Again, if a cop knocked on their door, flashed a badge, and they gave this information away, then there is a problem. But, this is exactly what a subpoena is for, to get law enforcement the information they need to catch criminals. Blizzard was legally bound to provide the information subpoenaed. While they could have fought it, they have no reason to, and in fact should not unless they feel there is a problem with the subpoena itself, which clearly they did not.

Last edited by Vyper : 01-05-10 at 12:05 AM.
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01-05-10, 01:42 AM   #6
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Its nonsense if you ask me. They can put the time and resources into using WOW to bust some poor sucker for selling pot but they can't/won't do anything about the 419 scams?

The things posted in that Yahoo story are flukes. "lucky breaks" as the cops would put it. I would not expect to see any fluctuation in arrests made because of Blizzards cooperation with the police. Further more this is one federal marshal we are talking about who just happened to play WOW and knew how it worked. This knowledge and know how is not something common to federal agents.

How do i know these things? Its simple... I'm currently fighting a case involving so called internet crimes, i was accused of hacking, violations of privacy and communication among other things. Want to know what really happened? G/f and i allowed this girl to stay at our house, she had posted an add online claiming she was knocked up and had no place to go so we took her in. Well within a few days it was clear her storys were not matching up. She posted ultra sounds of twins on her myspace claiming she had gone to the doctor that day and they were hers but she sat on m y couch all day that day and the days prior. She was using my computers and internet constantly. So when we figured out something was amiss we put a keylogger on the computer she uses all the time and proceeded to see what she was up to all the time on the computer and try to find out what the real story is. Turns out she was a scam artist she bounces from one place to the next with some crazy sob story leechs everything she can until the people figure it out and moves on to the next. I completely exposed her on myspace and forewarned all her next targets. Of course we kicked her out immediately.

The next day the police show up, no warrants no nothing claiming they had a report that i was a crazy computer hacker, which i suppose to the naked eye, when you walk into my living room and there is a massive liquid cooled comp sitting there and tons of other comps i could see how one might assume.... they proceed to try to break down my door and tazer me when i refused to allow them to arrest me with no evidence or warrants, idiot could not even tell me what i had done wrong. What was their reason? they had a report i was a crazy computer hacker. End result.... i am in the process of fighting a resisting arrest charge, since all charges of hacking or invasion of privacy were thrown out, and i am suing the piss out of the county sheriffs department. Plain and simple it was my house my internet my computer. I have every right to check out what someone is doing on my stuff including getting into their email, myspace or what ever else. YOU DO NOT have the right to privacy in that instance.

I was also ALMOST the target of the 419 scams and would have been outed $6,000 had i not caught on before it was to late. Straight from the mouth's of the FBI "we do not have the man power or the know how to handle even a fraction of online crimes or happenings" was their response multiple times when i called attempting to tell them how to go about at lest starting to put a dent into the 419 scams.


So while your being robbed for thousands of dollars by some jerk off in Nigeria the police are busy arresting billy joe bob from down the road for smoking pot or protecting himself and his property.

Who are the real criminals?

BTW side note: western union hangs posters in its windows that say "send money safely to Nigeria" yes that right it said Nigeria on it. There is no such thing as safe money to Nigeria. The country actually runs schools that teach people how to run online scams. It was their answer to poverty.
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Last edited by Grimsin : 01-05-10 at 01:45 AM.
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01-05-10, 01:51 AM   #7
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So in other words, I need to go set up my proxy. Got it.
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01-05-10, 05:00 AM   #8
Petrah
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Originally Posted by Farm Fresh View Post
Subpoenas are not taken as lightly as they are in TV Dramas. This wasn't just an impulse.
Agreed. I doubt Blizz wants to make headlines because they refuse to give up info about a drug dealer the feds are trying to nab. One less asshat on the streets selling drugs to our children.. I say way to go Blizz!

Originally Posted by Grimsin View Post
G/f and i allowed this girl to stay at our house, she had posted an add online claiming she was knocked up and had no place to go so we took her in.
In today's society with things the way they are, and with people the way they are, you took a complete stranger into your home without doing any type of background check on them whatsoever? Why on earth would you do that?
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01-05-10, 06:40 AM   #9
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Also We all agreed Blizzard is allowed to do to us. Terms of Use Article 17 C.

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01-05-10, 08:31 AM   #10
Sythalin
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Originally Posted by Jooze View Post
Also We all agreed Blizzard is allowed to do to us. Terms of Use Article 17 C.
Not fully true. I don't recall seeing in there that they are allowed to come to my home, take my kids and sell them for funds to pay their staff. Contrary to popular belief, Blizzard is not above the law (like the recently argued copyright issues of mods). I understand the subpoena thing, doesn't mean I have to like it.

My point still stands. How far will this go before people start having a problem with such methods? When one of their relatives are caught this way? When it's proven so effective that it becomes a law, no longer needing court orders? When that filters down to no longer needing a warrant to search a home/car/property? How about when a game instates a mandatory background check before playing? Or even better, your credit score has to be above 700 to play?

Yes, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but you can see what's brewing up in my head on this matter. Large changes come from little things like this exploding and being taken advantage of.

Last edited by Sythalin : 01-05-10 at 08:38 AM.
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01-05-10, 10:07 AM   #11
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Chaos is 100% right, its already gone that far though. "Patriot Act", they claim its to protect you from terrorists but really it was just an excuse they used to take away your rights completely and have complete power over you.
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01-05-10, 10:09 AM   #12
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Though unfair and against what is perceived rights of playing - Law Enforcement is the key player, if they weren't a part of the Law, I don't think Blizzard would have batted an eyelash in saying NO.
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01-05-10, 11:25 AM   #13
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Unless you use only solar power, use only cash, have no recurring bills with any agency and so on or aka "off the grid" your name and info is stored in more places then you may think. All of which are obtainable through the same methods. As was stated earlier in the thread the police got a lucky break and followed it.

What really happened here is the person in question was stupid and got caught because of it. If this genius had used a credit card in his name the result would have been similar.

Sure there are millions of players with info stored in the blizzard servers. Then again ANY service with a central location and similar information is no different.

If your truly worried about some agency having access to your information then i suggest you go guerilla style and drop off the grid completely. Because any service that has your info is just a subpoena away from having to give it out.

Alternatively if you think this is a small step in a larger issue do something about it. Write to various privacy advocate groups, government officials and so on stating you feel this will snowball in to something bigger. Big things come from small events (thats in both directions folks). If your worried about this and do nothing to prevent it then your just blowing hot air.

Sorry to sound so hostile on the subject but i personally fail to see any bad here. I take it at face value that all procedures were followed in this matter. The methods used are nothing new. The only difference here is it was blizzard is involved. Who is to say that they haven't complied with a subpoena before and this one just happened to make the news?
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01-05-10, 11:32 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by ChaosInc View Post
Not fully true. I don't recall seeing in there that they are allowed to come to my home, take my kids and sell them for funds to pay their staff. Contrary to popular belief, Blizzard is not above the law (like the recently argued copyright issues of mods).
Wow.... I have absolutely no idea where that came from.
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01-05-10, 11:47 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by MidgetMage55 View Post
Unless you use only solar power, use only cash, have no recurring bills with any agency and so on or aka "off the grid" your name and info is stored in more places then you may think. All of which are obtainable through the same methods. As was stated earlier in the thread the police got a lucky break and followed it.

What really happened here is the person in question was stupid and got caught because of it. If this genius had used a credit card in his name the result would have been similar.

Sure there are millions of players with info stored in the blizzard servers. Then again ANY service with a central location and similar information is no different.

If your truly worried about some agency having access to your information then i suggest you go guerilla style and drop off the grid completely. Because any service that has your info is just a subpoena away from having to give it out.

Alternatively if you think this is a small step in a larger issue do something about it. Write to various privacy advocate groups, government officials and so on stating you feel this will snowball in to something bigger. Big things come from small events (thats in both directions folks). If your worried about this and do nothing to prevent it then your just blowing hot air.

Sorry to sound so hostile on the subject but i personally fail to see any bad here. I take it at face value that all procedures were followed in this matter. The methods used are nothing new. The only difference here is it was blizzard is involved. Who is to say that they haven't complied with a subpoena before and this one just happened to make the news?
I do see your point as far as company goes. Whether Blizz or a cell phone company doesn't matter I suppose in terms of an investigation. I suppose my main issue is the fact that in all reality drug dealing is something minor.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got kids too, save the argument.

A murderer? Child molester? Serial rapist? These things I can see going this far. A drug dealer? Seems pretty low in comparison and is where my argument stems from. Thus leading to the same question that everyone has been avoiding: how far will it go?
Think about that after the cops are knocking on your door to arrest you for that driving under suspension ticket you got 10 years ago in some other state you forgot about. Then, after released, you go to your favorite gaming site and find a story posted about how they turned your ass in. See if you share the same opinion then.
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01-05-10, 11:49 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Vyper View Post
Wow.... I have absolutely no idea where that came from.
Maybe Blizzard came to his house and took his children and sold them to gold farmers? I dunno about blizzard doing that but the police and US GOV do, dont sell them to gold farmers of course but....They will come to your house take your children then charge the tax payers for taking care of those kids and use the money to "pay their staff" i have better more choice words for what they do with it but.... Maybe thats what he ment?
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01-05-10, 11:51 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Vyper View Post
Wow.... I have absolutely no idea where that came from.
Honestly, I can't remember where I was going with that one. I was dead tired last night. Lol.
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01-05-10, 04:32 PM   #18
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Also, this guy wasn't dealing in pot. He was dealing in Schedule III and Schedule IV controlled substances - those with "lower addiction" rates and medically acceptable usages.

However, after careful reading of the drugs - Schedule III and IV contain pretty much the entire spectrum of "date rape" drugs. So this guy was most likely selling barbiturates (phenobarbitol), Rohypnol, and other pills that can be used as "date rape" drugs.
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01-05-10, 04:55 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by ChaosInc View Post
I do see your point as far as company goes. Whether Blizz or a cell phone company doesn't matter I suppose in terms of an investigation. I suppose my main issue is the fact that in all reality drug dealing is something minor.
I suppose this is both a matter of opinion and degrees. "Drug dealer" can mean anything from "half the heroine in the U.S. passes through his hands at some point" to "sells little baggies on the street corner". Depending on the degree, yeah, I want them to use any means they can to get this guy. Of course, the article doesn't go into specifics, so I can only hope he was truly worth it.

Originally Posted by ChaosInc View Post
Honestly, I can't remember where I was going with that one. I was dead tired last night. Lol.
Heh, it seemed so random... I kept re-reading it, thinking it must tie into the article somehow, but I just couldn't get there.
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01-05-10, 05:02 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Vyper View Post
Heh, it seemed so random... I kept re-reading it, thinking it must tie into the article somehow, but I just couldn't get there.
I think I had another convo on my mind at the time and just didn't clear it from my head before I started typing. Meh.
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