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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:47 pm   

Criminals - What a sad world we live in
 
I don't get to program today. Instead, I get to spend the day dealing with the results of bad people in this world.

This morning we got a call from a motorcycle shop elsewhere in the US. They had gotten an order over the weekend from someone in New Zealand attempting the buy a motorcycle and have it shipped to New Zealand, but with our Colorado billing address. Fortunately, the cycle shop realized that this was a bit unusual and called us (yes, they had our phone number too).

Well, we never bought a motorcycle, so it was obvious that our credit card information had been stolen. Don't know if some Internet database somewhere got hacked, or if it was just a simple case of some grocery store checker who was selling stolen credit card numbers on the side.

But, some idiot in New Zealand was stupid enough to try and use a stolen credit card number. In this case, they will probably be caught since they provided a valid shipping address for the motorcycle.

So now I've got a new credit card and I get to spend the day calling people and going online to change dozens of monthly billing systems to use the new number.

At the same time, Chiara is dealing with a supposed "customer" of ours who apparently bought a zMUD license for his girlfriend years ago and now wants an upgraded code. But he doesn't even know the last name of the girlfriend.

To protect our customers, we require 2 pieces of identification before issuing a reg code or changing customer information. We accept the name, email address, postal address, original reg code. Any 2 of those items is good enough. But this guy didn't have the name, email address, or postal address. Not even part of it. He couldn't even tell us a city name. All he had was an original reg code, and he expected us to give him an updated code and change all of the information in the original record to match his info.

Reg codes are not transferable. None of the information in our database for that reg code matched any of this guys information. If he *really* did buy it for a girl friend, then he should have been able to provide us *some* information about it.

But no. Instead of giving us the requested information, this guy went on a rampage, sending Chiara a very unpleasant email about how unreasonable we were and about how he would just download a crack instead, and about how he was a columnist at some newspaper and would give us negative publicity.

Excuse me? This guy is old enough to be a columnist at a newspaper and yet doesn't seem to understand the terms "liable" and "slander"? And he talks about downloading a crack? Any reputable newspaper would call us to confirm the facts of the story, and if they got a copy of the email message this guy sent us, he'd probably get fired for the stuff he threatened.

The whole thing is probably just a made-up "story" by someone desperate for a new zMUD code because his "crack" doesn't work in the newer version. It's amazing the kind of email that Chiara gets sometimes.

Makes me wonder how people got like this. I don't understand people who cheat and steal. I certainly don't understand people who commit murder, rape, and all of the other bad things in this world. But every now and then, when we have a day like this, I see a glimpse of what the world is really like, and it really saddens me.
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Darker
GURU


Joined: 24 Sep 2000
Posts: 1237
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:56 pm   
 
Erm, so I need to update some info in my contact list for you, Zugg. What's that new credit card number? :)

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Tech
GURU


Joined: 18 Oct 2000
Posts: 2733
Location: Atlanta, USA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 7:41 pm   
 
I lost my CC info once, and had a Cingular account opened in my name (several blocks from my house to boot). You can rest assured I shred old statements obsessively now.

As for that customer if it was a gift for his ex he could have either a) not requested it since she would still be using her gift, or b) get her to request it. Furhtermore if he works for a newspaper, I'm inclined to think that even a few extra hours could have gleaned him the necessary scratch for his own copy (with all the accompanying benefits.) I'll admit I've used cracked software in the past, but I don't whine or complain when i can't anymore.

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Rorso
Wizard


Joined: 14 Oct 2000
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 8:06 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:
So now I've got a new credit card and I get to spend the day calling people and going online to change dozens of monthly billing systems to use the new number.

What's scary is if that "Internet database" still is hacked and is leaking information. I've never owned something like a credit card so I have no experience about them, but I have always suspected the system might be insecure.

Zugg wrote:
The whole thing is probably just a made-up "story" by someone desperate for a new zMUD code because his "crack" doesn't work in the newer version. It's amazing the kind of email that Chiara gets sometimes.
-------
Makes me wonder how people got like this. I don't understand people who cheat and steal.

Have you heard about the latest news from Sweden? :) A party called "Pirate Party" was formed a few months ago to try get elected. Software piracy seems to be accepted by a lot of people. Maybe piracy is so common because of some issue(s) with commercial software? The free software foundation has written an article about why software should be free that is pretty interesting to read.

Back in the good old Commodore 64 days there used to be piracy too. I have a vague memory that I read an article in a commodore magazine about something called a "Copy Party" which was similar to todays "LAN Party" but with a bit different theme Rolling Eyes.

It is very weird that people might pirate software where there often is an equivalent open source version.(Why use Adobe Photoshop when there's Gimp? Why Microsoft Office when OpenOffice works just as well? Why Visio when we have Dia? And why does people keep insist to use ASP when there is PHP?! Mr. Green)

What people don't realize is that piracy hurts both the commercial software developers and those who make free versions in the long run. If people buy cheap software the more expensive equivalent versions will have to consider lowering their price or improve the software. Supporting less expensive software also increase its quality.
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Kiasyn
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Joined: 05 Dec 2004
Posts: 196
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 12:50 am   
 
It wasn't me, I swear!

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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 7:11 am   
 
Rorso, with credit cards it's been shown that Internet purchases from reputable companies are actually safer than just using your credit card at a restruarant or grocery store. Here in the U.S., it's becoming more and more common that you actually swipe the card through the card reader yourself so that the grocery clerk never even sees or touches the credit card itself. They have even added chips to cards so that you don't even need to swipe them through a card reader.

In the "old days" a credit card receipt would show the full credit card number. So it was easy for someone with a minimum-wage job to collect receipts thrown in the garbage to collect valid numbers. Now, in most cases, the full card number is not shown in the printed receipt that you sign.

But it's still more common to have card numbers and identify theft from people going through your garbage then it is to get a hacked database. Most smaller companies use payment processors such as Verisign, or ShareIt, or Digital River affiliates where the central database of credit card numbers is *highly* secure. Not saying that it can't happen, but if someone like Verisign, or PayPal, or Amazon got their database hacked, we'd definitely hear about it. It would ruin their company, which is why they take great steps to keep full card numbers off their publicly accessible systems.

The "Pirate Party" is a scary thought. Yes, I know that the concept of "Intellectual Property" is a hot topic and widely debated. And part of the problem is that some big companies have really abused this with all of their software patents and stuff. And I've read the articles about software being free and I personally think that it is the most dangerous position. The people writing these articles only seem to focus on the big companies who can probably make their money on support and other methods to stay in business. They tend to ignore the "Micro-ISV" and small business. Free software puts the small company out of business. Period.

If I couldn't charge for zMUD, then it would have never made it past version 3.62. That's when I found that I could make enough money to make this my full-time job and quit my other job. If this didn't happen, then zMUD would have remained a hobby and would have died out after I personally stopped MUDding seriously many many years ago.

So, free software is fine for the hobbiest that doesn't care about making any money. Or it's fine for the high-school or college student that is just doing it to learn programming or to play around with software. You'd still have *some* open source systems like Mozilla that are the exception rather than the rule in terms of quality and success. But it totally puts the small family business out of business and you lose a *lot* of innovation and you lose a lot of quality in niche markets from that.

But the people pirating software and writing those articles don't seem to understand that. It's a similar argument for the people who think all music should be free and who pirate MP3 files. They just don't seem to understand the reality that if the artists don't get paid for their work, then they don't make the music (or software).

I've also noticed that it's the younger people who don't have mortgages or medical bills that make these statements. Or people who already have their own job doing something and think that software just gets magically written in "spare time". I'd actually be interested in seeing statistics on this. I know that I have gotten a lot of email over the years from people who pirated zMUD when they were young, but then bought it many years later when they got a job and realized how important it is to get paid for your work.

Ask anyone who has a job how they'd feel if they stopped getting paid for what they did. After all, what's so special about software? Do these people think that everything else should be free too? There seems to be something special about the fact that software and music and movies exist in digital form that somehow is supposed to make them free. Even though they take the same time and effort as anything else that we pay for.

My personal feeling is that *anything* that takes significant time and/or effort should be paid for. If you don't pay for it, then few people will do it. Sure, some people would still write some free stuff, but there would be no incentive to improve the quality or add new features. You'd only be left with the die-hard people who can somehow support themselves with another job and still have enough time to program. And then they wouldn't have the time needed to really support it.

The messed up world economy also makes this problem worse. The $30 for zMUD is a *LOT* of money in Russia and China. It's harder to get a "high tech" job there, so smart computer people end up using their skills hacking because it's more efficient to spend many hours hacking a program than to work in that economy to make $30 U.S. dollars. This world faces an enormous problem with this and sometimes forgets how many people there are in China and how difficult it is for them. I wish there was a way to really identify which country someone was from so that it was possible to give country-specific pricing. Companies such as Digital River are trying this, but it's very difficult with the Internet. You can't just trust the country name that someone enters into an online order form. Something the Europeans have discovered with their whole VAT tax mess. But I'd love to sell zMUD for a lower price to people in Russia, China, etc if there was a way ensure that it couldn't be abused by people living elsewhere trying to get it cheaper.

Until we have some sort of world economy where "one unit" of payment is equal to the same amount of work of the same type of job, then it just isn't going to be fair.

But my real problem isn't with the hackers themselves. I'm actually flattered that zMUD is considered such an important program that it deserves a crack. My concern is with the lies and stealing and crimes from people who should really know better. After all, I can understand someone in Russia who feels the need to hack software because it's so difficult to pay for it and takes so much more work to afford it. What I *don't* understand is an adult in the U.S. who tries to justify stealing software or music or anything else, just because it's electronics and seems harder to trace. Most of these people would never consider walking into a store and shoplifting, and yet they do the same thing online so casually. And they don't seem to give any thought to what kind of world this behavior is leading us towards.

Wow, that was way more than I intended to post ;)
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Tech
GURU


Joined: 18 Oct 2000
Posts: 2733
Location: Atlanta, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 3:05 pm   
 
You're right about how the world economy affects the pricing scheme. I never thought about it that way. I think part of is the nature of software and digital media in general. Being digital the difficulty to copy is trivial to non-existent to anyone with basic computer knowledge. If it could not be copied as easily it would be so quickly done. Consider if you could readily copy a hammer, or car without paying. Almost everyone would have one. When it's that easy to copy (especially after someone else has done a crack if necessary), the effort to individual is minimal compared to it's return.

Second it's the anonymity that's afforded when commiting the crime. It can using be done in the privacy of our homes and away from watching eyes. Also because the medium is generally so far removed from the provider it's easier to dissociate the product with its producer and view at as something gleaned from ether. Most people are inherently fair and honest and if they were in front of, or directly aware of the producer (of music, or software) they would be more inclined to pay for the result of someone else's hardwork and would certainly feel guilty about obtaining illegally. The perceptions that the producers are overly wealthy rockstars or faceless behemoth corporations only serves to further the dissociation because not many people think of the Micro-ISV or the underground musician when doing so. (I know I personally reconcile this in my own practices... I generally evaluate and support micro-ISV and independent musicians; and even though it's wrong I am less troubled by a cracked copy of Adobe or MSFT product, or music from the pop culture factories.)

The third is like you mentioned where there is an entire generation of computer literate kids (who constantly scour online) who don't understand the value of a dollar. I know for my younger siblings, their views on money changed when they got their first part-time jobs. Of course the anarchists, the cheap, the greedy and those with a sense of entitlement who want as much as possible for as little as possible, but sadly they will always be there.

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Zugg
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Joined: 25 Sep 2000
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Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 4:37 pm   
 
What you said about "wealthy rockstars or faceless behemoth corporations" is a good point. I know that if I could pay my money directly to the musicians and bypass the whole "big studio" structure, I would be more inclined to support the music artists. And with huge companies like Microsoft, I can see how people might forget about the small-time developers. Your analogy to the underground musician is a good one. (the office that I program in seems like a "cave" sometimes too :)

The anonymity issue is a really important one though. Yes, currently people think that they can do this in the privacy of their homes and not get caught. The problem with this is that once again the behavior is going to cause an unwanted outcome. The governments understand this anonymity and the more people commit these crimes, the more the governments are going to crack down and start instituting more and more laws to invade our private lives. Look at some of the stuff they are passing in the U.S. in the name of counter-terrorism. More and more of our traditional "freedoms" in the U.S. are being impacted.

If people continue to casually steal stuff electronically, it's just going to result in more laws allowing police to gather and track electronic footprints. More electronic "wire tapping". I've actually been a supporter in the idea that everyone online should be "registered". For example, my ISP already knows my name, address and IP address. So in that way, I'm pretty sure that my activity could be traced back to me, and that keeps me from doing anything illegal. What we will see is that the ability to connect to the Internet anonymously will start getting restricted, or become non-existent.

Behavior always drives outcome. Someone breaks into a house, so we install locks. People pirate software so we end up with worse and worse "activation" and "registration" requirements to legitimately use software. People pirate movies so we end up with complicated HDMI copy protection and stuff like the "broadcast flag" to restrict what we can watch and copy. But the majority of people don't seem to think about the consequences of their actions, especially if those consequences are long term.
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Rorso
Wizard


Joined: 14 Oct 2000
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 6:33 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:
If people continue to casually steal stuff electronically, it's just going to result in more laws allowing police to gather and track electronic footprints. More electronic "wire tapping". I've actually been a supporter in the idea that everyone online should be "registered". For example, my ISP already knows my name, address and IP address. So in that way, I'm pretty sure that my activity could be traced back to me, and that keeps me from doing anything illegal. What we will see is that the ability to connect to the Internet anonymously will start getting restricted, or become non-existent.

We have a political system where we elect people. If governments start to treat all citizens as enemies the "big company" view just increases. Instead of having people feel they have power to affect the world to the better they would feel that it is really the rich companies that write the laws/rules.

If you look at the "Pirate Party" it isn't odd it was formed. What people see is the rich music industry threaten to sue young people on millions of dollars. Possibly destroying families and put young people into the "debt trap". It is when things like these go too far a party like "Pirate Party" very well could get elected.

Zugg wrote:

And I've read the articles about software being free and I personally think that it is the most dangerous position. The people writing these articles only seem to focus on the big companies who can probably make their money on support and other methods to stay in business.

I think Richard Stallman wrote on their(free software foundation) website that the reason the GNU organization was founded was partly because of some company infringing on "freedoms", and unjust business practices.

If you look at free software you'll see that there is a lot of good stuff coming from it. They are very much against software patents and are working on informing people how bad it actually is. Imagine if you had to run patent checks on CMUD each time before a public release, or risk getting a huge lawsuit. I think I read some article some time ago referencing some investigation where they approximated every application to infringe on dozens of software patents.

It is a pretty complicated mess. A lot of companies are about restricting knowledge, use secret protocols and weird coding practices. The FSF view is instead about sharing knowledge and be open. It is really two almost different ethical systems.

I actually managed to find an interesting interview with Richard Stallman, Free Software as a Social Movement
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