Over the past few months, compromised accounts have been on the rise in World of Warcraft. Myself, and a couple friends of mine, have suffered the loss of our World of Warcraft accounts to hackers in the past couple of years. My own experience happened in the span of time my account wasn’t even active, so even though keyloggers are commonly used by hackers, there’s obviously other ways they get account information when you’re not even using the account. Here are some simple tips that can help protect your World of Warcraft account.
Get a Dedicated Email Account
One of the first things Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of World of Warcraft, advises to protect your World of Warcraft account is acquire an email address that is used solely for your Blizzard Battlenet account. Choose an email provider that’s different from any others currently used and reserve it for Battlenet account use only. Then, keep this email account secret. Don’t give it to family, friends, businesses or any other contacts. And, don’t use it for any other types of accounts, either.
When setting up a World of Warcraft email account, make sure to create a different password than one used to log into the game or affiliated web sites. Hackers are surprisingly successful when phishing email services since many people reuse a single password for different accounts. Having a single password for more than one use will not protect your World of Warcraft account.
Create Strong Passwords
All passwords should contain lower and upper case letters, numbers and, if allowed, a special character. Passwords should never use whole words or misspellings of words, and anything that might even hint at personal information should also be excluded.
For example, a password such as darrenko is easily stolen since it contains my real name, whereas 7mXSt1a04Y (not any of my real passwords) is much more difficult for hackers to acquire. Yes, the second password would require memorization, but to protect your World of Warcraft account and what’s invested in it is more than worth the small effort.
Change Passwords Often
It’s a pain to continually come up with a new password, but it greatly heightens security of any account. A password may be acquired by hackers today, but may not actually be used until much later. Changing passwords effectively keeps their information about your accounts outdated and therefore accounts become almost inaccessible. This one habit goes a long way to protect your World of Warcraft account.
I recommend password changes on a weekly basis. Make sure that each time you create a new password that it’s not one you’ve ever used before. Recycling passwords does nothing more than automatically update hackers’ information and won’t protect your World of Warcraft account. Don’t do them this favor, you’ll regret it.
Purchase an Account Authenticator
Blizzard Entertainment has developed an amazing tool that, so far as I know, doesn’t exist for any other games in the industry. It’s an account authenticator, a small device that fits on a key ring and is easy to use. When you log into any Blizzard internet game, it will ask for a number that’s randomly generated by the authenticator. Entering this number completes the login process.
The genius of an account authenticator is that each number generated is good for only one use. Once you’ve used the number it’s no longer valid. So, if hackers are able to acquire it through whatever malicious software in use, it does them no good as this number will no longer work.
An authenticator may be the best way to protect your World of Warcraft account. The price is $6.50 and no shipping is charged; a very small, one-time price for what is essentially a virtual key.
Be Careful with World of Warcraft Add-ons
Blizzard Entertainment has cooperated with independent developers to create programs that aid in World of Warcraft game play. Many players swear by these add-ons, and I’ve personally used a few of them. However, download websites are notorious gateways for Trojans, keyloggers, and other harmful programs.
If you choose to use add-ons, protect your World of Warcraft account by downloading them from official developer web sites. Avoid places like Curse.com, WoW-heroes.com and others like them.
Once you’ve downloaded an add-on, scan it with two or more anti-malware programs before extracting them into World of Warcraft folders. Never install a program straight from web sties. Your entire computer’s security can be comprised this way.
Run a Virus Scan after Starting World of Warcraft
Some malicious software is designed to only activate when the World of Warcraft login screen is used. Blizzard’s security team advises that, to stop programs meant solely for World of Warcraft, log in to your account and then initiate a full scan of your computer. Once scanning is complete, you may see viruses and other harmful programs are found that were otherwise hidden. These programs target World of Warcraft specifically so to protect your World of Warcraft account you must target those harmful programs in return.
Never Purchase Gold
One of the most frustrating things in World of Warcraft is gold sellers. These are people who use the game as a source of real world income. Close to fifteen million people subscribe to World of Warcraft and gold selling is a major cottage industry; and also a major violation of Blizzard’s terms of service agreement.
Purchasing gold compromises your efforts to protect your World of Warcraft account and can get you permanently banned from the game, and for good reason. A huge part of why hackers steal accounts is to sell in-game assets for gold and then sell the gold for real money. A standard practice is for hackers to run special programs called “bots” from stolen characters. Bots automatically play the game in a certain looping cycle, picking up whatever drops from kills and then selling them for gold. This gold is then put up for sale on web sites.
When you buy World of Warcraft gold, you’re essentially supporting hackers in their business, and are part of a vicious cycle of stolen accounts, selling gold, stolen accounts getting banned, and then new accounts being stolen.
Adding more injury to previous injury, gold-selling web sites are also known to install malicious software onto computers, thereby setting you up as a future victim to hackers.
As a matter of principle, I never bought gold during my World of Warcraft years. It wrecks the in-game economy and diminishes the entire playing experience. Players are simply better off shunning gold sellers or any similar merchants. Even if you don’t care to protect your World of Warcraft account, the game is more fun without ill-gotten gold.
Don’t Ever Share Accounts
It doesn’t matter how well you know someone. Even if you personally know them as a close friend, you can’t protect your World of Warcraft account when letting someone else use account information. Friends and family simply don’t have the same commitment to protect your World of Warcraft account as you do, and will not be careful. Not to mention sharing accounts with people you only know in-game. Sharing account information with them is just stupid.
Ignore In-game Spam, or Better Yet, Report It
Hackers take advantage of gullible World of Warcraft players by sending them private messages. They will usually disguise themselves as Blizzard representatives and request a password to “check account validity” or some other invented purpose. Or, the message might make it appear that you’ve somehow violated the terms of service agreement and need to verify account information at what seems to be an official Blizzard security web site. Answering these messages destroys all you’ve done to protect your World of Warcraft account; never respond in any way. Blizzard employees will never ask for passwords. Furthermore, should Blizzard need to contact you, it will only be through the email address you provided.
But even this isn’t enough to fully protect your World of Warcraft account. Should a hacker get hold of your secret World of Warcraft email address, they’ll send messages there, too. For detailed information on how to tell whether email is from Blizzard or not, go to this Blizzard email security information link.
If you spend any time at all playing World of Warcraft, eventually you’ll see these invalid messages. It’s a good idea to report the spam whenever possible. All you have to do is open the “Help” function and submit a ticket.
Have a Happy, Hacker Free Time in World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft is an addictively fun game. If you want to experience it trouble-free, do everything this article suggests. I also recommend visiting Blizzard Entertainment’s support site to learn many other useful ways to protect your World of Warcraft account.
World of Warcraft Account Security and Recovery
Email from Blizzard Entertainment’s security team following my own account’s compromise.