More MMOs pledge to fully remove Red Shell spyware, including Secret World Legends

    
42

At the beginning of June, we covered The Elder Scrolls Online’s implementation of spyware program Red Shell, which is designed to track specific information about players and PCs logging into the client, like where on the globe they live. At the time, as fury blazed across Reddit, ZeniMax’s Matt Firor apologized for Red Shell, saying the company was “experimenting” with it and didn’t intend to patch it into the live build, and therefore it would be patched back out.

As it turns out, there are plenty of other games with Red Shell, or parts of Red Shell lingering. Redditor Alexspeed75 has been keeping track of games accused of running the spyware. Most notable on the list for our readers is Funcom; while the studio removed the Red Shell code from Conan Exiles in May following player complaints, players still found parts of it in The Secret World as of last week. That, Funcom has told Redditors, was an error, as it patched out the code last year.

SWL has used Red Shell for tracking a login event last year. I confirmed with the team that the change to disable Red Shell was committed on 10/26, and it was patched either on the 31st of October or, at the latest, on November 13th. However, it seems we forgot to remove the .dlls which are still lingering. We are looking into removing those old remains with a patch asap to give you peace of mind.”

Battlerite has also pledged to remove it; Magic The Gathering Arena claimed it removed it four days ago. Guardians of Ember, Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade, and SoulWorker remain on the list.

ZeniMax and Funcom aren’t the only large MMO companies to come under fire for spyware this spring; Guild Wars 2 actually kicked off the first panic of the year back in April, when players discovered ArenaNet had been using a different type of spyware (not Red Shell) to parse player PC data and pre-emptively ban people with certain ambiguous programs installed on their computers. ArenaNet did not apologize; it did deny collecting excessive data, and it did remove the spyware at the end of March.

Here’s how to remove Red Shell from your computer should you find one of your games has decided to go down this path. Red Shell also has an opt-out form.

Source: Reddit. With many thanks to Ammalis and her new family member who graciously allowed her time to send us a tip! :D

42
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Kevin McCaughey

I don’t want these programs either, but keep in mind much worse happens in your web browser!

dumppumpslump
Reader
dumppumpslump

Yet another witch hunt that doesn’t merit its existence. It’s amazing to see how the average reader knows so little about tracking on the internet and data processing. And the people on the internet are not to blame for this lack of education on the basic principles of data collection and analysis.

It seems everyone is upset that there is a program that collects information that can identify the user of its service just about everywhere now. Well, let me try to bring some light on these issues.

Tracking individuals or groups and collecting information on them is nothing new on the internet. Just about every page you visit online uses some kind of analytics and processing software to collect information on just about everything you do on the website and cookies to store that information so you can be tracked when you change browsers/devices/routers.

Did you know, your own Massivelyop is collecting information on you via Google Analytics and via certain advertising platforms such as:
================================================================
Anonymous (Ad Views, Analytics, Browser Information, Cookie Data , Date/Time, Demographic Data, Hardware/Software Type, Internet Service Provider, Interaction Data , Page Views , Serving Domains)

Pseudonymous (IP Address (EU PII), Search History, Location Based Data, Device ID (EU PII))

PII (Name , Address, Phone Number, Email Address, Login, EU- IP Address, EU- Unique Device ID )

Sensitive (Financial Information) ?
====================================================================
And they are certainly using online advertising solutions that make use of this data to serve you the most relevant ads wherever you visit online such as their website, social media, Google…etc.

Does this make them bad?…No

Just because someone is collecting information about you doesn’t mean it’s with malicious intent. Advertisers use this data to improve your ad viewing experience and websites to improve the content you read. Game developers, just as everyone else on the internet, are involved in collecting information about you for the purposes of selling more copies of the game and improving their platforms/games.

Does that mean everyone uses your information in accordance with laws and regulations?….No
Have you heard about GDPR? Well, everyone did. GDPR is just one push to update the 20-year-old privacy laws in an attempt to force companies to have stricter policies on data they collect from users.

P.S. It pains me to see this incident with Cambridge Analytica turning into a nationwide incident about online privacy. Let me say this as simple as possible. Cambridge Analytica is in no way shape or form some high-tech super mega data collection facility that stores your personal information for malicious practices ( that’s the NSA’s job).
They simply made “games” on Facebook that collect your information and your friend’s information if you explicitly let them, which most people do and then they sold that “bulk” information to 3-rd party services to use for advertising on Facebook. I say “bulk” because Facebook doesn’t let you view or use the information you collect about individual people, you can view/use them only as a “group” to target with ads or let Facebook find similar people to them to target ads to.
In short….they did what every Facebook advertiser does to this day and will continue doing, placing ads and collecting information about people who see the ads to place some more ads. That’s how every social platform makes money.

Reader
Rolan Storm

So you saying these guys are liable for constantly popping-up advertising of ‘Albion Online’ in my youtube videos? Bastards.

:)

dumppumpslump
Reader
dumppumpslump

I implore you to endure in these hard times since Albion will meet its end…it must.

Reader
Rolan Storm

AHAHAHA! Good one.

To be honest I had nothing against Albion at first, even thought to check it out. Talked to a man who plays it on regular basis. Figured out it will need dedication, so decided to buy it later.

But those morons slapped me with their ad about fifty times already. I no longer want to hear about it, let alone play it.

As for information gathering – yeah, sure. Good rundown (especially on Cambridge Analytica). Still I’d like to live without that Red Shell in my TESO. Or anywhere for that matter. Funny thing TESO is my constant and SWL I visit frequently. What are the odds.

dumppumpslump
Reader
dumppumpslump

Yeah viewing the same ad 50 times sucks, that’s why serious advertisers try to avoid that.
The frequency you want someone to see the same ad should not be more than 4 for a customer and no more than 2,3 for someone that’s never bought from you.

I believe lack of information is the users biggest enemy. That’s why every business should disclose what they’re collecting and how they’re doing it.
Red Shell is just an example of how undisclosed use of harmless software turns to fear of spying on customers when that customer finds it on their own.

Reader
Rolan Storm

People get triggered on anything which happens behind their back when they find out.

When I saw first article on the subject I visited their site. Not exactly a spyware, yeah. In fact they have a certain functions that help gathering sales data and such. But that’s me. Most people don’t bother to figure out what happens before screaming bloody horror.

As for Albion – they did it again. Like ten minutes ago.

dumppumpslump
Reader
dumppumpslump

Unfortunately, yes, people like pitchforks.

Red Shell is just an analytics company.
They do with their software the same thing a cookie does in your browser and their whole business model revolves around trying to link a bought copy of the game to your first interaction with the game (ads, website, affiliates…).
Why? Because if the developer sees that 60% of their sales come from Google Ads they will invest more money there.

Ohh Albion, there’s a special place reserved in hell…

Reader
Rolan Storm

Yeah. Shame, too. It ain’t Dark Ages. Well, it seems at least…

:D They really should have chosen another approach. At least with me. Not that I’ll jump off TESO anytime soon, but… I might at least gave it a try. Well, heh.

Reader
Michael18

… and cookies to store that information so you can be tracked when you change browsers/devices/routers.

I heard this before, but cookies are stored in the browser, right? How can cookies then help tracking me across different browsers and different devices? (different routers I understand)

dumppumpslump
Reader
dumppumpslump

Yes, most cookies are stored in the browser and every browser has their own and that’s where your personal information comes in.
Even though you changed a device or browser you still use the same username whatever device/browser combo you are using at the moment.
As soon as you log-in on a service you use on a new device/browser your information is sent to try to match it to your ID and when it’s matched your device ID is assigned to your ID and voila now it knows it’s your device.
You also have “flash cookies” which are actually stored on your PC and can’t be removed by deleting browser cookies.
Have you ever played a browser game?… Then you have them.

Some huge advertising/information processing conglomerates even share information between themselves in an effort to track you with more accuracy.

Reader
Michael18

Ah, ok, when being logged in. That makes sense. Thanks.

But I never surf the web while being logged in to any services for extended periods of time (here on MOP, for example, I only log in if/when I want to comment or like). And regarding cookies: I haven’t had Flash on my computer since ages and have configured the browser to delete all cookies on each shut down. Not perfect, of course, but trims down the tracking a bit (also I have Ghostery installed).

Reader
Brother Maynard

Did you know, your own Massivelyop is collecting information on you via Google Analytics

Yes we did. Since MOP started.

And did you know that with a few clicks you can block all of them – or selectively, the trackers you don’t like – simply by installing an addon? And did you know it will continue to do all that for you automatically, hassle-free?

And did you know that you cannot do the same with a video game?

Reader
Michael18

Actually MOP is pretty decent. I’m using Ghostery, but with MOP white-listed and I usually see only around 6 trackers. And of those only 1 or 2 from unknown companies (the others belong to Facebook, Amazon, Google).

For comparison: when white-listing any major main-stream news web site the number of trackers goes up into the 40ies or 50ies easily, most from obscure, unknown companies.

Reader
Brother Maynard

Yes, MOP is more or less OK as far as these things go. The few annoying trackers here can be switched off in Ghostery, otherwise the site is rather clean.

My problem is that even with MOP whistelisted in Adblock and in Ghostery, I still get the adblock detected images. Even when temporarily disabling all addons, it still happens.

I guess the MOP website simply resorts to these images whenever an ad blocking addon is detected, regardless of whether it is actually active or not.

dumppumpslump
Reader
dumppumpslump

I’m confident you’re not talking for everyone visiting this website.
And no, you can’t block tracking for certain websites by just installing an addon.
Just as you have smart people trying to block tracking you also have smart people developing workarounds.

The only, mostly safe, way to block tracking on an on-site implementation of analytics is to block them in your browser options, which I’m not sure every browser has to this date.
And that’s just for on-site implementations of tracking which are arguably 95% of websites but for the 5% that use server-side tracking your hands are tied.

And with how this trend of more and more people installing ad/tracker blocking software goes up more and more businesses will resort to server-side tracking which will render all blocking software and browser blocking useless.

In the end, the question is not is it possible to block tracking it’s why are you blocking it in the first place? MOP is certainly not using this information to harm anyone, it’s used to help them grow their business and make the website a better experience for everyone. And that’s why most businesses use this information.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

This crap needs to stop.

Reader
Michael18

After reading the above I just sent a support ticket to Steam asking them to tell me which games in my library are using RedShell or a similar service. Let’s see what they answer :)

I’m not someone spamming companies with customer service requests because I realize that it can be a huge burden for companies if overused; but this is something Steam should care about, imo.

Reader
Brother Maynard

Knowing Steam, the answer will be one of the following:

a) We do not develop the games. If you want to know what a game does, contact its developer.

b) We do not discuss how specific measures designed to protect the players work.

c) Silence

Reader
Kevin McCaughey

I’d bet on (c) but it will definitely be one of the above ;)

Reader
Michael18

So far it’s (c)

They can’t go with (b) because RedShell does not claim to be anti-cheat.

Not sure if it’s so easy to go with (a) because the purchase contract was made with Steam (afaik) and according to GDPR the consumer can choose freely among several companies involved (retailer, manufacturer, etc.).

Ammalis
Reader
Ammalis

The problem is, that this tool is gathering some information which can be directly connected with person. According to linked reddit post:

It sends at least:

API key (Publishers and/or game identifier?)
User Identifier (SteamID as recommended)
Operating System
Screen resolution
Installed Fonts
Browsers

Those data is enough to be used for finger tipping. Especially the steam id should be considered as a probate information just like name (many users have their real name or some version of it included in this kind of ids).

Reader
Mark Jacobs

And, just in case anybody was wondering about us, we don’t use it, never had plans to use it, and honestly, didn’t even know it existed. :)

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

That’s cause your an ethical capitalist Mark and not an unethical twit. :)

Reader
Rolan Storm

Thought did not even cross the mind, but still good to have your assurance.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

They get busted and try to spin it with, “didn’t intend to patch it into the live build” WTF?

I don’t know whats worse, the fact they try and do this behind gamer’s backs, or that if it was unintentional then what you are saying is that you’re all completely incompetent?

Honestly i’d rather the former, just admit it, yea my bad, we thought it would be a good idea but due to player request we are removing it, done, instead of screaming from the rooftops “look how inexperienced we are” seriously, what else is in there that even you are unaware of, scary. Then you expect peeps to be OK with you handling their personal info and credit cards, now that’s scary.

Reader
rafael12104

This type of thing shouldn’t be an “oopsie” moment. It should be a “busted” moment and illegal. The FTC or FCC or any of the other Fs should have this in their crosshairs.

Boy, there sure are a lot of devs who made the same “mistake”. Oh sure, sure, a completely innocent mistake. I wonder what they have mistakenly done with my data and info?

Civ VI? Well, shit… that’s everyone isn’t it?

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

I know it’s all a huge joke, never any repercussions, facebook as an example, millions of peeps PERSONAL info exposed for anyone to view, all you get is “My bad, won’t happen again *cough*until next time*cough*”

Not a thing, and whats worse is people just keep on keeping on.

Reader
rafael12104

I thought exactly the same thing, actually. Just like Cambridge Analytica, right? Oh no. All harmless, nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

Yep the list is endless, yet peeps keep bending over for more.

Hey want to store all your personal inform in the internet. “ARE YOU FUCKING OUT OF YOUR FUCKED UP MIND??????????NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!”

Hey want to store all your personal info in the cloud. “Of course OMFG where so i sign please, hurry i need to have it all there, omg yes dump it all in the cloud, DAMN hurry where so i sign up for this? I need to be in the cloud”

ME, i did something about this when all these leaks and BS started, i immediately never signed up for any of it in the fucking first place, fuck!!! anyone with a grade 2 education could see the writing on the wall from a Alpha Centauri away.

Went to a cool seminar few weeks back, long story short they asked who has social accounts yadayada, few questions later, who has ever had a fraudulent charge? or the like, about 90% of your social idiots put their hands up as they are social posting away completely oblivious to the point just made. WOW!

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

Yep, until legislation, laws etc have real bite where heads roll, we aren’t going to see much change. :/

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Tobasco da Gama

Warframe had a bit of a scare with this, but the community team quickly clarified that it was just a mistake in their EULA. Apparently, they considered using Red Shell and got as far as adding some language about it into their EULA, but they changed their mind about using it before any Red Shell code made it into the game client.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

Wise choice on their part.

Reader
Arktouros

“Whoops.”