A Near Life Experience

Every Tuesday before my Tuesday night MMO event, I usually go hit up Nicholas the Traveler in Guild Wars.  I punched in my fairly strong password changed from the alleged NCSoft password snafu, and received notice that my account was deactivated (code=45)!  A quick Google search of code 45 showed that it dealt a lot with bannable offenses, such as botting or PvP match manipulation.  So many bad emotions flared through my mind, but at the bottom of the barrel was hope.

I knew I had done nothing wrong.  My biggest rational fear (thought up after a dreamless sleep) was that I had transacted with a true [evil] botter in buying items for Nicholas.  Otherwise, I don’t even use the unofficially allowed mods.  I don’t bot.  I barely PvP anymore, and only in pretty friendly arenas. So, I had a false confidence that all would be right in the end.

The first thing I did was start a support ticket.  NCSoft’s phone support is pretty weak as it seems open less than 1/4 of the day.  Their online ticket support either via the support website or email is much faster in generating a ticket number.  I’ve found in my couple decade life that having a ticket number for customer support seems to immediately grease the wheel.  Anyway, I knew what the next step would be… proving I was me.

Interestingly enough, NCSoft’s identity verification relies mostly on CD keys or account creation keys.  You know, the ones we all keep framed in our scrapbook. (I actually do keep mine.  In their CE boxes.  In storage.  800 miles away.)  Or they like to know which address I created some account at.  This might be fine for a house owning 40-something that intends to die in said house with a handful of bacon on his favorite rocking chair, but in the last 10 years I’ve had 7 mailing addresses.  Finally they wanted credit card numbers, which have also changed in the past 5 years.  I gave them what little I could, and I prayed.*

My ticket was escalated.  Great!  Something clicked.  They weren’t just shutting me down like so many horror stories I’ve heard on the forums.  I called them anyway as soon as their phone lines opened.

See my friend had just had an issue with another big MMO company: Turbine.  On opening day of Lord of the Rings Online Free-to-Play, my friend bought a dance emote.  The store glitched, and he received three copies of the same emote.  Of course, he was charged for all three.  He duly submitted a ticket, and had not heard from Turbine for about two weeks.  Finally he decided to call them up.  After being on hold for an hour, the issue was dealt with in about 5 minutes.

So, I figured pressing NCSoft on multiple fronts would help me get my account back or figure out what had gone wrong that much quicker.

The gentleman that answered was very polite and helpful.  I called under the pretenses of, this time, being unable to access my NCSoft account. He had to repeat NCSoft’s patented identity verification system, and I failed most of his questions.  I also learned new things like I actually have a City of Heroes full account.  I guess he felt some of my honest emotion through the phone, and we pressed forward juicing any of my useful personal information out of the turnip of my life that we could.  It really comes down to the fact that I don’t really know much about my NCSoft account, and apparently I know less than I should about my Guild Wars account.  Nick finally decided that I had met the criteria, and he put me on hold.

See, Nick, was smarter than me.  As soon as I gave him my personal email, I think he pretty much saw that I was really calling about the active ticket regarding my blocked Guild Wars account.  When I was on hold, fearful that he and his supervisor were laughing at my apparent lack of identity, Nick was actually fixing all my wrongs.  In my email I started seeing tickets being closed and passwords being reset.  Things were going back as they should.  Thank you, Nick.

It turns out that someone in an unnamed foreign country, foreign to us Yanks anyway, had accessed my NCSoft account and then my Guild Wars account.  NCSoft went ahead and shut down my accounts, and Nick said I had done the right thing in calling them up.  It just would have helped a bit more if I could easily prove I was an account owner instead of an amorphous, nameless blob.  Thankfully I have not noticed anything missing, and I have received much preemptive love from friends and guildies for replacing missing loot.

Of course what this has really done is get my butt in gear for changing passwords for sensitive information.  This was a loss of some extension of my self.  Ironic, that I felt that loss and barely passed NCSoft’s fabled identity criteria.  I don’t want that to come about again.  I felt betrayed and violated.  They had taken something from me.  The shock seriously took the wind out of my sails, but it thankfully had a storybook ending.  I’m sure there’s a message in here somewhere.

–Ravious
only after disaster

*Not in any religious sense.  That would be silly.  More of a sensing and willing to the Force, ether, or what have you.

22 thoughts on “A Near Life Experience”

  1. I am glad that things turned out so well for you! :)

    It seems to be easier to hack an account than to prove you are the owner, even if you actually are the owner.

    I wrote down my GW keys and NCSoft Account PW and stored them physically in a secret place because it is almost impossible to verify you are the owner if you do not have said keycodes. Which probably 99% don’t keep, especially if they bought a digital only copy.

    I fear they need a more efficient procedure to verify an account owner and deal with account issues.

    I have a Prophecies only account that I kept for the annual birthday presents and I forgot the password… I have not yet recovered it as the procedure to get it back is such a chore.

  2. A good read! I’m glad you got it all sorted out. It’s one of all our nightmares I think having our acounts hacked or stolen and one of those “it’s never going to happen to me” things, but sadly I guess it does. Right, off to change my passwords ;)

      1. Assuming you have been careful and have used a non-dictionary guessable password not shared with anything else, then my guess is that you had a browser window up while you logged into the game, and got hit by an Adobe Flash vulnerability from an ad that logged your keys.

        This is how I got compromised on WoW a couple years back; my password was random letters and numbers and not used anywhere else. However, I had started to use a free WoW website (Jame’s Horde Leveling Guide), and a malicious flash ad on that site exploited what turned out to be only a 2-day old unpatched flash vulnerability, and this captured my keys. I was pretty shocked, because until that point in my life I’d never had anything on my computer compromised ever.

        Ironically, I normally run with adblock and flashblock, but I had allowed ads to be shown on that site as a show of support — which turned out to not be a good idea.

  3. This happenned to me with WoW. My account was hacked into (and I’m pretty rediculously safe about keeping my system, passwords, and stuff secure, so I’m really not sure how the attacker got in), but got in he did and wrecked havoc, including attaching an authenticator. After about 5 phone calls to Blizzard and 10-15 e-mails I finally got it resolved with a stern “If this happens again, we’re not helping you out” from Blizz. I was pretty much forced to purchase one of the authenticators and attach it, because I don’t trust Blizz enough to keep my account safe.

    At the same time, I tried logging into GW after a long hiatus but was met with that “Name a character on your account” and was stymied. I just didn’t remember any, and it took about a week to finally get it resolved with ANet.

    All in all, though, glad to hear that everything went smooth and you were able to get everything resolved. But, like you, afterwards I took the precautions and for every account that is sensitive, like e-mail, it has a password that has nothing to do with any other password. So at least if I get hacked again, the problem stays localized and not epidemic across all my accounts.

    1. Yeah. I am fairly new to Guild Wars, in terms of played time. I set up an account with my wife, and then it languished while we chased achievements in WoW. After time passed, we came back, and were presented with the “Name a character on your account” prompt. That should be easy, we named the characters on GW and WoW the same thing! Only… that didn’t work. We couldn’t get in. Took us a week to remember that Guild Wars uses first *and* last names. Very frustrating, even though I prefer the name choices in GW to what WoW allows.

  4. Glad you got it all worked out.

    If something like this were to happen to me, I think I’d just give up. I’m past the times where I’d happily or grudgingly put up with spending hours/days/weeks with CS or TS and I don’t really play GW anymore (I’d be surprised if I logged in more than once a month, just to see how my friends list is empty and promptly log back out).

    So the way I see it with GW, if I’m hacked they’re basically taking away something I left behind. Yes, it should be fought in principle, but to me, right here, right now, today, it’s just not worth the CS/TS aggravation and accompanying waste of time I could spend doing something else.

  5. The same thing happened to me last week. Odd that they didn’t ask for my address, and I’m bewildered as to how they don’t have a better system for proving your identity.

    For me it must have been someone hacking into my gmail that was the problem, it was a weak password but who’d want to hack into that? I thought.

  6. Wow, that is an awesome story. I would hate to have to get my account unhacked. I forgot all the things you did. At least I’ll know to call. Please don’t get hacked, please

  7. first I’d like to say I’m glad your prayers were answered ravious :P as to the main point at hand I had to get very creative with my ncsoft account password after I got hit a second time… thankfully my gw account wasn’t damaged by the hackers which seems to be the case with most of the GW hacking stories I’ve heard, I suspect they want us as fodder for their own farmbot to improve drop rates and may not actually care about the characters in and of themselves.

  8. I’m still surprised how grateful and forgiving you seem to be of NCSoft in this. Through no fault of your own, in fact through THEIR fault, your account was compromised. And they ran you through the ringer with this pain in the ass requirements to get it sorted out.

    Same thing happened to me and I got it resolved over a day or two through the online ticket system. Luckily my current account was relatively new and I did still have the boxes and registration emails (thank google for that), otherwise I’m sure it would have taken another day or two. And this was me getting hacked after I had updated my pw through all the obscure rotes they suggested after their previous round of security breaches. /sigh

    Heh, and also like you I didn’t realize that I even had an NCSoft account independant of my GW account. Forgot about that trial of CoX I did. ;P

  9. Screenshots are your friend. Had a similar problem to Jonathan above. The addition of the character name happened between two active periods of GW play for my partner. I was playing sporadically the whole time so no problem. But when he tried to log on again he couldn’t remember any character names! Thankfully I had some screenies from our duo gaming sessions which really saved the day as his character name was displayed for the record!

  10. Just in terms of the account creation keys, I had an experience with FFXI when, after a long period away, I wanted to come back. It blew my mind to find out that I needed the account creation key to re-install the game. I had forgotten that it was printed on the inside of the instruction book, reshelved it for some unknown reason, and gave up. Only found out I still had the key when I cleaned out that closet and got curious.

  11. I somewhat recently had to figure out my account name and password for my GW account, didn’t even know there was a master account, all that good stuff. Sure we can help you out, just tell us one of your character names! Crap. All in all, I cried enough apparently, and logged in to find out that I didn’t get any rare reward pet deals that you guys talked about here a while back.

    I’m not a fan of having to have 5 accounts for one friggin thing that I use maybe once a year and, let’s not forget, actually paid for. Rabble rabble rabble.

    Glad you got your shit back, but, damn these gold farmers for making life so difficult amirite?

  12. I bought Guild Wars when it released, played it for around six weeks and never logged in again. Earlier this year, with all the GW2 hype, I decided I’d have another look at the original.

    I couldn’t remember anything about the account at all, but I did still have the original CD and case. It took about a week of emails back and forth, but in the end NCSoft did reactivate my original account. Their customer service might have been a little slow-and-steady but it got the job done and I was very happy with it.

    Of course, once I’d logged in and decided I did want to go on playing I promptly bought all the expansions and tied them to a brand new account so that I’d get 8 character slots instead of 6, so I’m not even using the account that took all the effort to revive. Meaning I might as well just have started from scratch anyway. But that’s not the point!

  13. Hi Ravious,
    I read this one and the follow up. Unfortunately Ncsoft and Arenanet don’t listen to urgent requests 1,5 year ago from me via guildwiki talk pages, guru etc. People laugh at it not taking it serious. We the gamers not abusing the games are not heard. But if enough sound is made, maybe one day the legally obliged security measures to safeguard someones privacy will be heard.

    There are several additional measures which could be implemented. But the only thing they do is saying it´s the end-users fault.

    Arenanet should indeed have a better plan for GW2.

    Thanx for sharing, hoping you have trust enough to play again. I love you’re posts!

  14. You know, this is really interesting.

    I went to log into Guild Wars for the first time since maybe December 2009 and I got a message that my account was blocked (the exact same error as given above). I rarely play the game in the first place, much less do any botting or anything that would get me into trouble, so my first thought was “what the hell?”

    As far as security goes, the only time I’ve ever had an account on anything hacked was when I was in China in March and made the mistake of sending a twitter update from my phone whilst on the Great Wall of China, and had my twitter account subsequently hacked as a result (thank you, Chinese ISPs). If my GW account had been hacked, given that I use different passwords for everything they couldn’t have gotten very far, but it was still disconcerting to say the least.

    I emailed support and got a laundry list of questions I had to answer to verify my identity, most of which were really difficult to do since I bought my first Guild Wars box in 2007 and had no idea what credit card number (for example) was used for the purchase. They responded that not all the information I’d sent was complete and asked for CD keys, which was when I recalled that I also had an Aion subscription that gets even less play time than Guild Wars — it was at that point that I realised my entire NCSoft account was blocked, not just my Guild Wars one.

    I sent that in and finally was given a reset to my passwords, but NCSoft is so far absolutely refusing to give me an explanation on why the account was blocked in the first place. I think I’ve clocked in maybe ten hours of game play since 2007 and my highest character is level 12, so it’s not like I’m breaking the rules here. That they blocked my account and I only discovered it in the first place because I was in the mood to play Guild Wars is completely appalling, and that they won’t give me an explanation over why it was blocked is even more astounding.

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