Nov 17 2007
Misadventures in Finding Chinese Farmers
No, Chinese farmers are not part of the Chinese hacker community but are often associated with them. It seems that the hackers decided rather than spending their days fighting, collecting or fishing for virtual items, it was just easier to hijack accounts and steal them. Well, even that was a little too much work and they decided to hold the secondary market for ransom.
DoS attack cripples $1 billion virtual games trade
“A massive denial of service attack has disabled some of the world’s largest virtual goods trading sites. The Korea-based sites hit by the attack are responsible for a substantial portion of the country’s estimated $1bn trade in virtual gold, weapons and other items for games like World of Warcraft.
Spokesmen for some of the trading sites affected, which include ItemBay, ItemMania, ItemPF and ItemRia initially claimed that they were offline for technical reasons, local media report. Later, ItemRia admitted in an online notice that the outages have been caused by a flood of traffic, apparently directed by hackers. An ItemPF spokesperson has since made a similar admission, according to local media.
The sites have been difficult or impossible to access for at least the past four days, according to Korean media (links are in Korean). Error messages returned suggest that servers are overloaded or have been deliberately taken off line.
Chinese ‘blackmail’ claim
Local press reports have blamed Chinese hackers for the attacks, citing claims from unnamed online security sources that the torrent of unwanted incoming traffic originated from large numbers of Chinese internet addresses.” Continue reading more…
So I decided to try and find these virtual Chinese farmers and see what they thought about this development.
First I wanted to see if I could locate one of the sites that sold virtual items. It took absolutely no time at all. As a matter of fact there were quite a few of them but I wanted one inside of China. That is when I located:
And according to Whois, their server is located in Beijing
In the About section of VgoldSeller it gives the following summary:
“VgoldSeller is a leading provider of services tailored to the needs of MMORPG players who want to maximize their online gaming experience. Whether you are looking for game items, currency farming, or power leveling, VgoldSeller provide these services at competitive prices while maintaining the highest of standards.”
There were several games that they provided “services” for and I decided to use Runescape as my game of choice…well, because it was listed first and free to join. Here are a few of the items available from VgoldSeller to Runescape players:
Very resonable prices for millions in gold
Entire accounts for sale, this one was $109 and some change
Who wouldn’t want a little lobster
I’m usually interested in the mechanics of a transaction. I don’t just like hearing that this or that took place, I want to know how it was carried out. VgoldSeller was kind enough to provide a partial explanation:
>”Delivery of Runescape Gold & Runescape Money & Runescape Items Runescape2 gold will be delivered in about 8 minutes. To achieve fast delivery of runescape gold, please keep in touch with us through our ‘live support’. We are not able to keep whispering in runescape to check if you are online or not to recieve the runescape money. RED ALEART:Pay attention to Scammers! we do not ask gold back for any reason after we deliver gold to you, so do not believe any one who try to pretend working for Vgoldseller!”
Now, I’m no expert but this sounds a little funny, not haha, just fishy. Okay, but how do you get the gold? Well, go to the FAQ section of the site and it tells you:
“frequently asked questions:
Where do you deliver to in Runescape? Commonly we will make the trade in the western bank of Varrock. After doing the rookie quest, the new player appears at Lumbridge. Then you can run along till reach to Varrock. We can trade the Gold to you smoothly. If you do not receive your gold in time, please come to online live support for delivery inquiry. TIP: Don’t leave the bank during the trade. Inside the bank is the safest.”
The dire warning with the tip really makes it sound like this is not on the up and up. What will happen if I leave the bank? Safest?
Okay, we have a couple of clues worth checking out to help us find these Chinese farmers. One, the transactions are normally carried out at the bank in Varrock. Two, they deal in lobsters. I know something about online games and trying to find them by gold or entire accounts is going to be difficult. So, we will stick with the bank in Varrock and lobsters.
Meet Heike717. That is me in the foreground waving.
Won’t bore you with the details of what it took to get here; let’s just say that I had to kill two large rats (who had it coming), an innocent chicken, bake bread and some things too horrible to mention. I endure this for you guys and it is an hour of my life I will never get back.
I show up and what is first thing that greets me? Someone selling gold and power leveling. I tried to ask the female figure some questions on what she was doing but after several frantic, “Report her, report her” calls from other players she vanished.
Opportunity missed but we continue. On our journey to the bank, why not stop and ask the local folk a question. Screenshot below of uncooperative and insulting fellow game members (they called me a “Noob”…several times!). Jokes on them, check out the banner, I won a free laptop.
More noob comments follow but I think I am winning them over with my persistence.
We arrive at the bank in Varrock!”
In hindsight, I guess yelling out, “VgoldSeller make yourself known!” was not the best tactic.
Just skip this one, personally embarrassing. It just got worse and saying, “If everyone would LIST up for a minute!” added nothing to my credibility.
After annoying the bank patrons for many more screenshots, I was told to go to the wharf where they fish for lobsters! Bingo!
At the wharf I meet Tristar, who noticed I was trying to talk to the characters with Chinese names and he informed me that they were just bots. I asked what the bots were doing and he told me they try to get you to buy gold and items from online sites. Also, on a side note, some guy was getting his butt kicked by a giant chicken.
It seemed Tristar might be right, these were just bots. I tried everything to talk with these guys. Used English, Chinese (Pinyin) and constantly sent them harassing trade with me messages. Nothing worked. They are either beyond being annoyed or are bots. One thing you do notice is that they are all lower level players with Chinese names or a combination of numbers and letters. Tristar’s comment about them being bots does seem to fit with the economics involved. While wages in China are not near US levels, they aren’t so low that you would work the amount of time it takes to get a million pieces of virtual gold for a percentage of $3.99.