From #SL Griefing to Extortion

Alternates are used by griefers to build the appearance of multiple people having problems with a target avatar. They create a false sense of the numbers-must-mean-right argument. Griefers create alternates that I’ll label sleepers. They are created and used very little for months or years then logged in to file an abuse report from an avatar older than 24 hours.

Suddenly the target abuse-reported by a load of Alt’s is wondering why the Lab blocked their account or banned them. The, say 35, people that filed AR’s against the target may be the griefer’s alternates or pawns asked or socially engineered into filing AR’s based on the griefer’s story. The Justice League was known for group AR’ing.

When well done it is difficult to tell propaganda from legitimate information. Even those working with griefers daily can be sucked in. Pawns play an important part in giving griefers cover and legitimacy.

In RL law enforcement, presumably unbiased people, investigates, uncovers evidence, facts, and decides based on probable cause whether to arrest or not. A judge and/or prosecutor, supposedly an unbiased party outside law enforcement, at some point rules on what the police decided and issues or denies a warrant.

In SL there is only a very abbreviated process for deciding what to do with a mass of AR’s and other complaints. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Lindens often get it wrong or that griefers can play them.

Bury a well thought out campaign in a blizzard of IP address and network MAC’s and it is looks just like the real thing. It is also possible to make a griefing campaign so bizarre or intricate it is hard for people to believe anyone would go that far or be that devious. A person would have to be really sick to do something like that. It is an axiom that griefers are mentally ill. We have sick minds that stalk, kidnap, torture, and kill children in RL. So, I believe there is no limit to what a sick mind can come up with. But, good people have a hard time believing it possible. And remember: sick does NOT mean stupid.

A Solution?

If you have been dealing with griefing, you know there really isn’t anyone in the Lab to talk to. If there were, would they have the time to talk with you? And… what would you say so they would believe you? How would they tell you from a griefer playing them? Put yourself in the position of a griefer lying to a Linden. What would you say to them and how is that different from what you would say if you were for real?

I think you can see from what I’ve pointed out there is not currently a good RL law enforcement solution, at least not any making economic sense. The criminal or civil route is likely to cost tens of thousands of dollars. The griefer is likely to lie to law enforcement in an effort to turn them on you. Remember Hush/Curio.

There is no simple or easy solution. There are systems in place to help resolve problems. But, those systems are under attack and tend to be ineffective as criminals play them.

All we can do is keep providing abuse reports with as much information as possible. When we find a problem, such as the TID people have, where a griefer is being vile and especially persistent we start looking for some way to demonstrate to the Lindens how much of a problem it is. Some type of response from the Lab is demanded by the abused and that becomes another problem. So, the abused start to abuse Lindens and others to get a response. They become what they are fighting.


Problems are most prevalent among the uneducated, I don’t mean uneducated in a schooling sense. I mean this more in the sense of being socially aware of human nature, political systems, and life in general. Many simply do not know how to defend or protect their self, property, or friends or what is possible. The uneducated depend on OTHERS… police, legal systems, etc. Those are fine for a set of scenarios. But, the educated prepare in advance so they won’t have to rely on them. There are limits to how much protection can protect us. But, not having what is available is foolish.

Your first step in anti-griefer education is Fr43k Paine’s user page in the wiki: Dealing With Griefers. The article has a Part II that provides more information for land owners and estate managers.


In RL we have locks and safe guards to keep people out of our homes. We plan, some of us do, for power outages and loss of various services we depend on. Those depending on FEMA in the northeastern US are freezing, starving, and homeless and media is ignoring it. One has to wonder why it is not getting the coverage Katrina did. From Katrina to Sandy FEMA has not changed.

For home invasions people arm because seconds count and police respond in minutes. The prepared have generators, food, and other supplies. In SL we also need to prepare for the problems we can foresee.

With any viewer it is currently possible to steal any texture one sees. There is a debugging tool for OpenGL that allows one to capture any texture passing through the OpenGL render process. There is no possible defense that can be built into any viewer. I’ve experimented with it. It is undetectable server side. It requires no changes to the viewer. Copybot viewers just make a similar process easier.

Since the viewer must have every texture, mesh, prim object, and sculpty to render the scene. Everything you see must be downloaded to the viewer. It can be intercepted and saved.

THERE IS NO DEFENSE. Your stuff placed in digital form anywhere on the Internet can be copied and misused. In fact it can be turned against you and the thief can claim you stole it. Your only protection is in preparing for that scenario. Learn about watermarks and hidden copyright marks for your images/textures. 

9 thoughts on “From #SL Griefing to Extortion

  1. I LOVED your article and read it completely. I would like you to suggest someday to write a bit more about protecting our works. For example, how to fill copyrights to register mesh and textures with a bit more of detail, how to write licenses to sell mesh in SL (some people ask for custom meshes in SL that they later want to sell in website like TurboSquid!) and others ways to protect us. Maybe saving images of our projects WIP on some image hosting like someone suggested to me some ago, etc…

    BTW I would like to know your most sincere opinion about this idea. Long time ago some friends and me were talking about copybot and this kind of problems and how easy is to use some simple debuggers. Then it comes to my mind the way that some online games have to protect the game code for being injected from others processes.

    So, what if Second Life stopped being Open Source again, and those who want develop a viewer they can do it requesting a license? That license would be free and would have similar requirements than being in the Third Party Viewer directory. Each viewer will have an “identification” so others viewer aren’t able to log into the main grid, but into the beta one (this would allow access to everyone who want test or build their own features). Asides of that, SL would run with a third party software protection method. There are some out there used a lot by MMORPG like game guard for example. This kind of process doesn’t allow to debuggers to run within the main game an neither any kind of “hack” that try to inject code into the game.

    So with this we get 2 ways or protect SL:

    – For one side we get the viewer protection. Since each viewer uses a license, no one will be able to connect to the main grid unless it uses the original viewer license which would be quickly traduced in a filtration of the license making it easier to find the one responsible of it.

    – And for the other side, we get software protection making it unable to use any kind of hack to access internal viewer memory (or at least, it could be a way harder to do it). This kind of software runs in background and is often updated to be up to date with the most common ways of intrusions.

    I recognize that changing from being Open Source to this kind of license may be a big change and I am not so used to this kind of changes and what would implies for LL. But so far I think it adds great measures of protection for everyone that at least will make harder for [less knowledgeable] people to steal a simple texture.

    Thanks again for your article and hope to see soon some more info about protecting our works 😉


    • I have thought about writing more on protecting creative works. I may. I have two tutorials on other parts of building for SL in process now.

      Discontinuing Open Source viewers… I think that is a bad idea. It would have some advantages, but protecting digital Intellectual Property (IP) is not one of them. The entertainment industry has tried for decades to protect music and movies. Every idea they have come up with has been cracked. I think that route is a dead end always leading to failure. If a computer is used to protect it, and a computer has to remove protection to display it… then someone will figure out how it is done.

      • I know may not be perfect. But trust me, thirdparty software running on background as gameguard and such really works. Ive tested by myself, is impossible to use any kind of “hack” tool on them. They are very sensitive and even others harmless process may be conflictive. So everything that try to acess to the main game is always restricted and in consecuence the game doesnt connect to internet and doesnt work. The game may not be to stop being OpenSource, there are still ways to implement thos softwares. I really think we should get at least something similar to that, they are really effective, almost impossible to hack, and they are updated daily like antivirus does. I think that limits in a 2% the possiblities to hack things like textures and meshes.

        And thanks for your answer. Looking forward for those tips to protect our content 😉 ♥

  2. I really think there is only one good solution to the issue of griefing and that is to require accounts have unique payment information on file. Accounts with no payment information on file need to be restricted, and used as test accounts. If I were to setup those accounts I would make two changes 1) require that those accounts only log in with the default LL viewer, and 2) remove the ability for those accounts to hold any inventory. No freebies, nothing received from others, nothing. It is the ability to create sooooo many accounts, and make the truly anonymous that makes griefing so easy. Blocking an account is meaningless because the griefer will have a new account minutes later, and the griefer has an account already that he never griefs with that just holds all the tools he needs to grief. So its a simple invetory swap to be back up and running. What LL needs to be blocking is any account created with a specific payment method.

    In my opinion until the ability to create these accounts is gone, the griefers will never be.

    • The problem with imposing such restrictions is that you throw out other use cases in Second Life, such as educators, whom aren’t going to register all their students with payment info on file and nor should they need to.

      Then we have alts for testing purposes, although this could be somewhat mitigated if we had one account, multiple avatars, rather than one account per avatar.

      Let’s also not forget that a reason people engage with Second Life is because they can get started for free, if we take that away, we’ll lose a lot of interest at registration.

    • That would reduce SL population to at 20% my friend.

      The key of a solution is to everyone gets benefit from it harming the less possible the rest of users or even LL.

      There are also others problems with that. SL would be then restricted to some countries and ages. Not everyone can afford or even have the rights to get a credit card for the PIOF. So that idea is a bit extreme.

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  4. Oh, this is a real well thought article, thank You 🙂

    Maybe our view could be widen even more.
    griefing has for sure an increasing economical aspect, on which ppl with reason and desire love to talk.
    There are also other dimensions. Some could just seen as annoying, some as harassing.
    It’s indeed really ‘annoying’ to sail peaceful somewhere and get hit by a wave of griefing ghoul particles.
    But will giving up privacy stopping this?
    do not believe that.

    Trading privacy for the hope on less griefing will never the smart answer. Sorry but, as You Nalates said the problem is far more complex.

    central collected privacy information can not be handled so safe that i will start giving LL mine and i were ok with that the last 6 years on SL.

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