What I learned from having my Diablo III account hacked


Earlier this month I was mugged (or “meat-hacked”) by some teenagers, which at the time I thought was quite rude. They took my phone. “That was rude of them,” I told the police, plainly, before asking “does it happen very often?” It does indeed happen very often, the policeman informed me. There are on average seven reported mobile phone robberies a day in my area, which seems like a lot until you do the maths: at that rate it would take 117 years to steal every mobile phone in the borough. Hardly efficient. Muggers are idiots. They lack the understated professionalism of Diablo III hackers.

A short while later, you see,I was robbed in Diablo III. Logging in, I discoveredthat most of my weapons and armour had disappeared, along with all of my gold. I had either been “hacked” by a malicious player or Blizzard’s servers had decided to arbitrarily “delete” chunks of my inventory. Either way, my suspicions were first raised when I could see my Monk’s nipples on the character select screen. I didn’t remember taking his top off last time I quit the game, so I stared at his bare chest with precisely the same sort of blank-eyed bafflement that gripped me in the half-second after my non-virtual mobile phone was grabbed from my hand. My experiences of personal loss in both real life and Diablo III mirrored one another to some extent, and both taught me some valuable lessons about safety, security and magic pauldrons – but which experience was the least delightful? Let’s find out by comparing the two traumas in five key areas.

Winner: Reality
Perhaps the nicest thing about being hacked and losing all your stuff in Diablo III is that the hacker’s friend doesn’t push you to the ground outside Bermondsey tube station while the hacker goes through your pockets. In fact, there’s very little chance of you coming to any physical harm if your Diablo character is hacked, unless in a fit of rage you slam your fists on your desk so hard that you cartwheel backwards into a lion’s mouth. WHICH CAN HAPPEN.

Winner: Diablo III
Reality loses out to Diablo here, as while the police successfully retrieved my phone in the end, Blizzard could only restore my character to a point two levels prior to when my account was hacked. This meant that, while I got most of my nicest stuff back, I lost a cool rare daibo that I’d found. A +40 DEX, life-restoring daibo that I’d gone to bed thinking about. A rare daibo! Try explaining that to your grandmother through shrieks of tears. She’ll fake a modicum sympathy, sure, but she really doesn’t understand how serious the matter is and is probably looking at your mum and doing comically exaggerated shrugging gestures behind your back.

Winner: Reality
Another victory for real life. My muggers, along with a dozen other teenagers who I reckoned looked a bit like them, were all arrested, no doubt inspiring a personal vendetta against me that springs to mind every time I walk home alone at night. Victims of hacking in Diablo III receive no such justice, instead, my requests for some clarity on precisely who had accessed my account were rebuffed with a vaguely finger-wagging explanation of how to maintain my account security in future. Embarrassingly, I hadn’t yet installed the security-bolstering Authenticator. The Blizzard rep could barely disguise her disdain.

Winner: Reality
The police were around my flat in under five minutes, while Blizzard took six hours and three minutes to respond to my ticket. To be fair, one of these robberies (the real one) is slightly more urgent, and it took Blizzard less than 24 hours to restore my character in the end. So, with a worldly sense of perspective that is making this comparison appear increasingly facetious, both response times were reasonable. Both Blizzard and the police did a great job of looking after me when I managed to get all of my stuff taken off me by horrible, horrible people.

Winner: Diablo III
What stuck in my craw most about my Diablo III hacking experience was the strict limit on the number of times you can request that your character be restored to a previous state. You only get two restorations, one of which I’ve now used up. In instances of account hacking, the blame officially falls on the shoulders of the account owner, the implication being that it was your own technological incompetence that allowed your login details to fall into the hands of a ne’er-do-well. The thing is, and I do realise that this is a vaguely ridiculous thing to assert in an article about my account being hacked, I believe I’m fairly savvy when it comes to internet security. I’ve got loads of different passwords and everything.

I hadn’t installed the Authenticator because I wasn’t aware of the scale of the hacking problem. Blizzard, on the other hand, are perfectly aware of it and could be making greater efforts to promote – or even require – the use of the identity-confirming Authenticator. Perhaps step one would be to present the free iPhone app more prominently than the paid-for dongle as, when placed alongside one another, the absent-minded user keen to start playing Diablo III might well assume that additional security is a premium service rather than a necessity.

Still, as the results reveal, a good real-life mugging tends to throw the loss of a nice daibo into sharp relief. You can avoid the former by not standing around street corners sending Facebook messages like a moron. Avoiding the latter is only slightly more complicated, yet infinitely more effective: install Blizzard’s Authenticator. It’ll keep you safe right up until it doesn’t.