This week, for the first time in my life, I found myself a victim of the infamous online identity theft phenomena. Fortunately my bank account was not broken into, nor was my MSN account hijacked and then used in some insane plot to overthrow a small orphanage. What did happen however, was that my Battle.net account was hacked into, and my dormant World of Warcraft account reactivated, and violated.
I have not been actively playing WoW for over a year now. In fact, I had finally convinced myself to uninstall the game last week, and was in the process of writing a post saying farewell to Azeoroth when I was informed by a friend that I was somehow online and logged in. And that, was the moment I realised that my account has been hacked.
That moment of realisation was both terrifying and sickening. However, what terrified me more was the fact that it had happened in the first place, the fact that I have no idea HOW it had happened, and the fact that it had seemed so easy on the hackers part. With one simple password my online identity was hijacked. Within seconds, years of digital wealth and achievement destroyed. And with a few clicks of a button, my online identity corrupted and twisted; the proof of my existence, wiped without a trace.
Perhaps I am being over dramatic over the hack of a simple gaming account, but online identity theft has the potential to become a real threat to our every day lives, especially as more and more of ourselves migrates to the net, as more and more of our personal data becomes locked up in online databases. Our Facebook and dating profiles; our Foursquares and GPS locations; our financial records; our Google (or Bing) search results; our family and medical histories; and even our shoe sizes and our sexual preferences, it’s all out there on the net. What is worse is the fact that there are no concrete laws or agencies governing it all; that the net is for the most part self-governing, or as some might argue, is ungovernable due to its scope and decentralised nature.
I appreciate the freedom that the net allows, and understand the fact that to impose laws or governing agencies upon it would be to take away one of its greatest strengths. However, part of me have to wonder. As the wilderness of the net, and the predators that lies within becomes more complex and chaotic – how much longer can we survive without some kind of protection, without some kind of law to provide order and stability? Furthermore, who can we entrust to provide such protection, without compromising our own integrity and freedom?
Oh, and one last thing – to the people who hacked my account: STFU NOOB!