March 21, 2006

Beware of chat before a big game!

Category: Tech — @ 7:08 am

Life online sometimes is productive of very funny and strange things because it is so easy to fake and feign things like identity. And this story about a prank, code named victoria, is perhaps one of the finest examples of the great gulf that exists between one person and the other online, a gulf that is productive of deception. Of course, deception is not unique to packets and bytes. But packets and bytes are a channel that can augment the chances for such deception. The post is written my the eminent security expert and writer, Bruce Schneier who ends with this amusing assessment:

Security morals? First, this is the cleverest social engineering attack I’ve read about in a long time. Second, authentication is hard in little text windows — but it’s no less important. (Although even if this were a real co-ed recruited for the ruse, authentication wouldn’t have helped.) And third, you can hoodwink college basketball players if you get them thinking with their hormones.

Finally, make sure to check out the picture that captures the fleeting but very real moment when the player under the prank attack understood
that he was the target of a prankish joke , meant to disarm him and this game!

For those who know of this world of faceless chat, you may want to check out The Parlor. I use it for teaching and now it is there for viewing on google video.


  1. Brilliant. I had missed this one. Its a wonderful example of how easy it is to exploit structural assumptions about presence and identity in technologically mediated conversations. Especially since, according to the article, there was no single “Victoria.” The response to the discovery is right out of Freud’s “The Uncanny.”

    - Matt

    Comment by Matt Bernius — March 22, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

  2. Hey Matt

    I have not read The Uncanny. In what way is it right out there? Would love to hear more.


    Comment by sato — March 23, 2006 @ 7:58 am

  3. Freud characterizes the uncanny as the feeling of distress and unease that occurs when the seemingly familiar becomes unfamiliar and the hidden comes to light. Though, for Freud, it usually takes place when the boundaries between what is real and what is imagined blur, I think it can be a useful model to approach these types of situations. In my work I’ve applied it to the moment where someone realizes that the human interlocutor that they’ve been interacting with is a bot. It seems like it’s an easy step to apply it to this case. Perhaps even more so because so many silo’d walls and relations (worlds even) suddenly collapsed and inverted for that player.

    Comment by Matt Bernius — March 23, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML ( You can use these tags):
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> .