By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
I don’t know what is making me more speechless – the fact that the woman is facing serious jail time for this offense or that the story made it onto CNN. “Obama and McCain? Who CARES?! We’ve got virtual reality murder HERE! Let’s go with this!”
So, as CNN is reporting, the 43 year old Japanese woman is facing 5 years in prison or a $5000 fine. What did she do? Well, she was playing a MMORPG called Maple Story and in this game, her character was happily married to a male character (who is a 33 year old Japanese man in real life).
Well once upon a time, the two virtual characters had a bit of a falling out and they went to a virtual lawyer and had a virtual divorce. The virtual husband went away thinking “oooh that stung a bit but it’s over now”, but the virtual wife thought “I’m so angry! I’m going to kill virtual husband!”
So virtual wife logs into the game as virtual husband (using his username and password) and kills his character. Virtual husband dies a horrible virtual death. 33 year old Japanese man logs on, finds his character dead, calls the real police and files a real complaint.
My first question is, if she logs in as him and kills his character, what exactly did she do to his character? Stab himself? Hang himself? Simply delete his account? If so, it’s not really a virtual murder then, more a virtual suicide. Sorry to nitpick there.
The woman has been charged with computer hacking offenses, but here’s my second question – according to CNN, she got the log-in details “from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married”. So if the man gave her the log-in details voluntarily, does using them later for devious purposes still constitute hacking? All she did was simply log in with what he gave her. To my mind, hacking involves breaking into the account by brute force when you don’t readily have the account details to hand.
We live in a weird, weird world….