Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An RMT Shell Game

Today I have a tale of two purveyors of currencies used in our favorite virtual worlds.  One, Avatarbank, is based in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA.  The other, Koala Credits, calls Hong Kong home.  So, besides a business that harms the games I love, what do these two companies share in common?  Would you believe a database?

Actually the two share more than just a database as I discovered on 20 January when checking out the prices of Eve Online ISK amongst the various 3rd party RMT shops.  I found the Avatarbank site was down and started laughing as I saw the page displayed.  The site was in debug mode and instead of displaying a standard HTTP 500 error I saw a big page full of lovely information that linked Avatarbank, Koala Credits and the Canadian RMT dealer InGameDelivery.

Database Connects Two and Payment To A Third?

Now, perhaps the developer just likes cute teddy bear-link creatures.  I've known programmers who have named variables like that.  So I kept looking and the server administration email looks really suspicious.

More links between Avatarbank and Koala Credits
If I didn't know better that email likely is used by an administrator in charge of both Avatarbank and Koala Credits.  And while I didn't underline the picture the SERVER_ADDR variable resolved to the Koala Credits website as of last night.  Strange for an error for Avatarbank.com.

The linkage between the three 3rd party RMT sites in the error that occurred also leads to some additional questions.  Last week two notable events occurred in the world of the Eve Online ISK market.  The first is that after an absence of two years the gold selling giant IGE is selling ISK again.  The second is that both AvatarBank and Koala Credits raised their prices to around $31 per 1 billion ISK last week, a very uncompetitive price in the 3rd party ISK market.  One might think they were clearing the field for IGE to allow the company to get re-established in Eve.

One additional fun fact emerged from connecting the dots.  Looking at MMOBUX, a web site that rates virtual currency sellers, finds its customer satisfaction rankings dominated by, surprise, Koala Credits, InGameDelivery and Avatarbank.

MMOBUX Customer Satisfaction Rankings
As of 5 Feb 2013
Is the company pulling the strings behind the three sites just that good at customer service or is there another bit of misdirection occurring?  In the underworld of 3rd party virtual currency sales, the best advice is to trust no one.

6 comments:

  1. You did forward the relevant info to CCP right? I am sure CCP Sreegs would love to have that info.

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    1. Assuming he doesn't read this blog regularly.

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    2. The whole error page doesn't really show more than I posted here. I did cut off things like the API user account name because I didn't think it would be cool to publish that on the Internet even if I don't like their business.

      I don't know for sure that CCP Sreegs regularly reads the blog but I do know that sometimes I get a lot of traffic from Iceland. I'm pretty sure that someone from CCP has read this one. I have the feeling that both Sreegs and Stillman might like this post because apart from fighting bad guys they are both internet security professionals and a screw-up this big is funny as long as it happens to someone you don't like.

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    3. I'm pretty sure you just got a lot more traffic from Iceland.

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  2. All these posts about bots and RMT are just a way to bribe your way into CCP's good grace adn attention so you can apply for a job as security officer in Iceland?

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    1. Actually no. Maybe 10 years ago before I bought a house I would have loved the adventure, but not now. About the only things I'd be qualified for is either QA or as an investigator as I have a lot of experience as a log monkey. But I don't think I could take the cut in pay.

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