Special Task Force Report (02/20/2008)

Today's report will outline our actions conducted from January 25, 2008 to February 20, 2008 in dealing with players violating the user agreement, as well as details on the activities, results, and goals of the Special Task Force.

Click here for details on the Special Task Force's activities in dealing with players violating the FINAL FANTASY XI user agreement.

Special Task Force activities and future plans

Most of the characters engaged in RMT (*1) were continuously reappearing after their accounts had been banned. In order to deal with this, we began to shorten the intervals between bannings. As visible in the below graph, as a result of this, there were more accounts banned in December 2007 than in any previous month.
The Special Task Force is continuing to ban players violating the user agreement with the overall goal of eliminating all accounts involved in RMT.

The following tally details the condition of problems between January 25, 2008 and February 20, 2008. Each of these issues is discussed individually in the following section.

- Illegal fishing
One of the reasons the number of accounts banned in December 2007 drastically increased was due to the strengthening of activities against illegal fishing. By shortening the intervals between bannings and increasing the amount of accounts banned each time, a total of 1,850 accounts were banned within the span of a month.

- Hunters (*2)
The Special Task Force uses the information provided by reports submitted by FINAL FANTASY XI players in investigating and banning characters involved in RMT.
As a result, we currently receive almost no reports regarding hunters targeting Notorious Monsters. On the other hand, the number of reports regarding lower-level suspicious characters continuously fighting regular monsters has considerably increased.
We track the items and gil obtained through these battles to their destination and, if RMT ties can be confirmed, we ban the corresponding account.

- Use of synthesis and auction houses for RMT (*3)
After the last banning, the number of reward items for certain quests being sold at auction houses considerably decreased. The reason for this is due to the Special Task Force targeting characters involved in using auction houses for RMT, along with characters using unauthorized software to beat certain quests. All accounts associated with these characters were banned. We are currently continuing these investigations and bannings.

- Use of tools that allow enhanced character movement (*4)
After "Wings of the Goddess" was released, characters using unauthorized methods to beat new quests appeared. Because of this, the Special Task Force began to continually ban characters over short periods of time. This is the other reason why the number of characters banned in December 2007 drastically increased.
Up until now, we've been using basic methods such as investigating character logs and confirming violations of the user agreement in the banning of accounts, but we are currently preparing to introduce effective countermeasures into the game itself. If these countermeasures are introduced into the game, the number of characters involved in enhanced character movement will significantly decrease.

*1. RMT
"Real Money Trading." Selling game data for real money.

*2. Hunters
Characters who kill Notorious Monsters, clear quests, and obtain items over and over again with the sole purpose of gathering gil, which is then handed off to RMT groups.

*3. Use of synthesis and auction houses for RMT
Actions involving selling large quantities of in-game items for gil, which is then traded for real money.

*4: The use of unauthorized software to modify a character's movements.

Matters of concern within the community

In the following section, we will be explaining the Special Task Force's direction and plans in dealing with matters of concern within the community.

- The number of characters fishing with machine-like movements hasn't decreased at all.
Illegal fishing makes up about half of the reports submitted by FINAL FANTASY XI players. The main areas showing up in the reports are Buburimu Peninsula, Sea Serpent Grotto, and the ferry that goes back and forth between Mhaura and Selbina.
The accounts in question are banned over a short period of time and soon afterwards, roughly the same number of new characters reemerges to continue the same actions as before.
Currently the Special Task Force is looking into introducing systematic countermeasures to break this cycle.

- It seems that in the recent banning, the majority of RMT gil buyers were banned, but does the Special Task Force change the displayed number of accounts banned from month to month instead of displaying the actual number?
Not only gil buyers, but all users violating the user agreement are given penalties immediately after the investigation of their account has concluded
However, even if a certain number of penalties are imposed each month on violators of the user agreement, as long as the total penalties do not exceed a set line, their accounts will not be banned. Therefore, a significant difference can be seen between individual accounts. Because of this, the number of accounts banned may drastically change from month to month, but the Special Task Force will never intentionally alter the actual numbers.

Warning about unauthorized access

As has been mentioned in previous Special Task Force reports, problems regarding third party access to players' account information have become more and more common. Even if ones account is compromised only once, all of that player's characters could be deleted and all gil and items lost.
Viewing suspicious web sites linked on gaming websites or blogs, as well as downloading files from these sites, is believed to be the main cause of this unauthorized access. A player's computer becomes infected with a Trojan horse or keylogger and before he realizes it, his PlayOnline ID and password have been stolen.
We are currently working on a method to restore edited account details and lost items, but there are a few preventative measures to help protect ones account. The following are a few such countermeasures that Windows users can use to protect against unauthorized access.

- Do not access websites with unknown or suspicious content.
- Do not download software from unknown or suspicious websites.
- Periodically perform Windows Updates and keep Windows updated to the latest version.
*Refer to Microsoft's official website for more detailed information.
- Periodically update your web browser to the latest version.
- Do not use external tools not approved by Square Enix under any circumstances.
- Always use the latest antivirus software and Internet security software.

In order to protect your data, please use the countermeasures listed above along with diligent management of your PlayOnline account.
We would also like to remind everyone that Square Enix will never reveal PlayOnline account details to third parties.

Reporting to the Special Task Force

The Special Task Force relies on everyone's information regarding violations of the user agreement to help keep FINAL FANTASY XI an enjoyable environment, and we appreciate your continuing support and cooperation.

Report to Special Task Force