Habborator Frank talks:

 

Looks can be deceiving. You wouldn’t say so, but Frank is a pretty knowledgable guy; he has a good eye on what’s going on behind the scenes of his hotel. We overheard some conversations about a couple op processes running in the background of the hotel, where he explained a few things that are considered a ‘threat’ by Sulake, and these just might be bothering innocent Habbo souls. Nothing Sulake is really trying to keep secret, but buzz subjects in a lot of forums. People tend to make up conspiracy theories, and mystify things that, well, have a simple explanation. We wanted to spend some time on these subjects, but Frank proved to be the better debater, so we’ll just let him do the talking.

You could see this section as Habborators’ take on a ‘Safety article’. In essence, we believe things should be presented the way they are. Maybe Sulake, being the owner of all Habbo hotels is not that harsh/strict on things either, but are not in a position to talk this straight; they are up against parents, all kind of consumer organisations, all fully ready to put full responsibility on the company that sucked up their kids money (or that’s what is believed), when the slightest thing goes wrong. They are forced to present themselves as fully white, no greytones allowed. Thus anything/-body presenting any security risk needs to be presented as black.

Sure, scripters, people running a retroserver, are knowledgable about some aspects of the hotel. But they’re also kids that have outgrown Habbo and are looking for ways to keep it interesting for them. Most just fiddle with other people’s programs and the ones creating them take their first steps programming stuff. Not as scary and foremost not as ‘elite’ as some make it sound. Frank just tells it like it is (…), so here’s some of his conversations providing a more balanced view.

*Editors note*: we illustrated Franks words with a few pictures. We didn't need any scripting tools nor a retroserver (too lazy for all that) to get them. We just picked them up on the wrong forums, easy as that. As such, we don’t claim them to be truthful with current hotel versions, or rather, they’re probably out of date. Before you start sending us stuff, we don’t aim them to be up to date, they serve as an impression, that’s all we needed.

 

SirSwearalot: “These Mods, Frank, have they got nothing better to do than ban me for speaking my mind ?!”

Frank: “You might consider trying to get some grip on your emotions. Apart from that, did you know those moderators are properly trained before being allowed that power ? Sulake has (a) special server(s) for just this purpose (on the domain varoke.net, ‘varoke’ being another word for ‘fuse’, like ‘sulake’). They even were publicly accessible, but when people found out, April 2007, and it was getting crowded they were secured.”

SirSwearalot: “Trained or whatever, they just follow the whiners reporting every single little mistake and ban who-ever said a tiny word ?”

Frank: “The organisation behind their actions is a little more complex, I assure you. To give you some idea of how moderators work, let me tell you the guys in Helsinki HQ paid some close attention to empowering their moderators to be really effective. Moderating tools are available on 3 levels.”

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Frank: “Most obvious, and most used, are the ‘In-game’ controls available to the moderator(s) on duty. They have two icons in the upperleft corner of their screen. A red button with an ‘!’ to view and respond to Calls for help, and an ‘M’, which opens ‘The Tool’. This tool has options to send alerts, kick and ban people. Apart from this, moderators have related commands they can put in the speech box, like we have ‘:chooser’ and ‘:furni’. Try for instance to put in ‘:ban someone’; response will tell you this is a used command for moderators.”

Frank: “Second level is called ‘Housekeeping’. This is a webbased control panel. Not primarily meant for moderation (only), but with a lot of options like mass alerts. A staff control panel with parts that are used for moderation.”

SirSwearalot: “Haha, yes, I've seen that. People got access, and played around ;).”

Frank: “Yeah, like years ago, and the fact these screenshots still float around just masks the fact nobody succeeded in doing that ever again, maybe (except on retroservers) ? The 1337 boys and girls live beyond their golden era, my impression.”

Frank: “Anyway, there’s a final tool (that may or may not be used for your hotel) Sulake named ‘George’ - a reference to George Orwell, whose famous book called ‘1984’ featured ‘Big Brother’ watching every step of people’s lives. Recommended reading, though I prefer Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave new world’ when it comes to realistic future horror. Anyway, this java/-webbased tool can be used to monitor all conversations within the hotel. The people behind the buttons may or may not be regular moderators on your hotel. Some operators might just operate this tool and act on the background hotel (as such, you don’t get to talk to them a lot). This might differ for hotels worldwide.”

Becs (former ‘Global Manager, Safety & Moderation’): “Any phrase we tell it, it will alert us in Red on a screen and we can immediately click a button and watch the chat live. That’s just one of the many features of this tool.

We are picky about our George moderators (different from our in-game moderators). They must be completely discreet, have excellent judgment about what to report and when to action, and they must not mind being very lonely. It’s a one way moderation tool with very little to no interaction with the players. It’s not for everyone but it’s our most important job in the game.”

 

Gigglyguy: “Frank, don’t tell anyone, but I’m offered a trade for a photo of a *naked* Habbo girl :p. It’s scripted right, these guys can do really weird stuff.”

Frank: “Oh, them scripters. I feel a lecture coming up. Let’s not blow things out of proportions. The subject is a) made bigger than it is all around, and b) it’s better to know what is it - as compared to being impressed, or even afraid, of something you do not know anything about. So let me tell you what scripting is, and why you shouldn’t be either of those.”

Frank: “First of all, scripting is illegal in Habbo hotel and can get you banned. Basically, it’s running a scripting program, and within the program Habbo hotel is being opened. Because the program acts as a ‘shell’, it can intercept and change commands. Example, you buy a stool. To make that stool visible the hotel sends out a signal: this habbo has a stool in this room, show it ! A scripting program intercepts this signal and replaces the part that says ‘stool’ with something different, for instance the code for a rare piece of furniture. Or, the part that says whre the piece of furniture is is changed and that poster is now hanging ‘in space’. Coolness. Ofcourse, you can imagine that program sending out signals at its own, the intercepting example just works a little better while explaining.”

Frank: “There’s two kinds of scripting, ‘client-side’ and ‘server-side’. A big difference. ‘Client-side’ is taking place on the computer of a user (client), and is not visible for others. So people have to take a screenshot to show off what they did, it’s more for fame than anything else (this is a currently less common way pictures of unreleased furniture get into the world (retroservers took over)).”

Frank: “It being illegal comes from the other kind. ‘Server-side’ scripting takes place on the server (computer the hotel is residing on), and is visible to all. Potentially much more dangerous, as there’s room to scam other people. So here’s where Sulake had and will have to do a lot of work, patch/fix the security holes. They were pretty successful; ever since v8 you can quote people saying “scripting is dead”. There’s not a lot possible anymore, people still make rooms with posters in space, recolored stickies and alike. Some find that looking awesome, no harm done, so well… But with every new version, potential new holes are around, so you can trust a couple of people in Helsinki HQ are concerned with following potential new threats and patching those.”

 

Lisalovesyou: “Help me Frank, I think there’s a hacker in my portaloo !”

Frank: “Hrmph, are you sure ? ‘Hacking’ is the most misused, misunderstood and overrated word in the digital universe today. If I guess your password because you told me about your favorite dog on MSN, and you were silly enough to use the dog’s name (partly) as your password, well: a) you did things the not-so-smart way, but also b) I’m no hacker whatsoever, I’m just a pathetic human being with no life (but I have your furniture). The point is, people need not be a hacker to get into accounts, and that’s because too much people are not protecting themselves that well, or even, behave irresponsibly.”

Frank: “For instance, a way to get your habbo name and password is to type those in at a ‘fake login’, looking like the Habbo login page. That’s why you should only login from the Habbo homepage. If any other site links you directly to some login, always check the address bar. Are you really at the official page ?! Another way of getting your account compromised is by means of a keylogger. It ‘records’ which keys you are pressing on your keyboard (password) and sends it to who-ever got you the thing in the first place (are you sure about the friendlyness of those friends on MSN…).

Lisalovesyou: “Sniff =’( - so I can’t trust anyone ?”

Frank: “It doesn’t hurt to be careful, but not all is bad. You know what ? Maybe not all people can judge what to click, or are just fast-clicking types. If there’s one thing you, or your parents, should be willing to spend money on, it’s a decent virusscan. Good ones are McAfee and Norton, and there’s even free versions of AVG. They come as full packages these days, and you’ll find that even if you voluntarily clicked whatever installs that ugly stuff (we all luuurrrve cat pictures), it will be halted. I’ll hereby admit that I once (I wasn’t even employed with Habbo then, nor did it exist) lost a computer motherboard due to a very evil virus thingy and a virusscan not updating itself (thank you, IBM). Learned my lesson. I’m still no safety expert, but no need for that, it’s been taken care off by my scanning program.”

Lisalovesyou: “But I don’t know if my computer has a virusscanner, it was on sale at the discount shop ?!”

Frank: “Ask you parents, family, guardian. They should know, and if they don’t know, tell them what I said, let them find a virusscanner (no need for full security suites or whatever, just a decent scanner) and buy you one. You can’t get your kid on the internet without protection, that’s like dropping you in the center of a big city and saying we’ll pick you up in a couple of hours.”

Lisalovesyou: “So there’s no hacker in my portaloo ?”

Frank: “No, any real hacker is interested in different things, not your portaloo, possibly your parents’ bank account though. Anyone presenting him-/herself as such on Habbo hotel is 1) fake, 2) fake and 3) fake…”

 

*Anonymous habbo*: “Frank, what’s the deal with retroservers and why do I keep visiting them ?”

Frank: “You get presented this idea immense wealth, habbowise, is at your fingertips. Within hours you find the server needs to be restarted, crashes, or whatever, accounts are reset, and you need to rebuild your wealth. If you finally have something build, you find the only way to ‘share’ your wealth is to make screenshots and post on a forum online, that focusses on the ‘real’ hotel. The discomfort you’re feeling originates in the fact you do know it’s not real.”

*Anonymous habbo*: “Frank, but a retroserver is just as (un)real as the official hotel, just (the same) digital data ?!”

Frank: “Reality kick(ing in), dear anonymous. You’re right, both are just digital data, and the data is much alike. But the digital data of the real hotel persist, while you can count on the other to vanish. That simple. Your purchase with the real hotel also gets you a promise it will be remembered and kept online, this is a key thing that comes with your purchase. It might help the promise comes from the people that designed the furniture and have their servers running for years…”

Surely, retroservers are running on files taken from the real hotel. But they have these hotels running on their home computers, set up as a server, usually link to some files on the habbo servers. The files they use are copied from Sulake, so no way around the fact the data is the same. The ‘realness’ of the ‘real’ hotel is rather defined by a) ownership of the design, and b) the above mentioned promise of persistence, which no retro can make true.

They’re called retroservers because people used to run really old versions of the hotel for fun. Good old days and stuff. Nowadays, most people running one try to keep up with the latest version of the hotel Sulake has online.

*Anonymous habbo*: “But Frank, I did visit a retroserver and now I see the Habbo homepage is issuing serious warnings about them ?! Am I probed, lost, incurable ?”

Frank: “Nah, probably not. In most cases it’s just kids playing around, admitted. They should think a little, much more respect to be earned by creating an original fansite, for instance. Yet, if people are able to get a retroserver running, they’re also able to provide you with a keylogger (you don’t even need to be remotely smart for both). And please tell me you didn’t use same name & password you did for the real thing.”

*Anonymous habbo*: “Why the big fuzz then, Frank ?”

Frank: “Even Sulake does not think retroservers are a big threat. Yes, they have them taken down by hosts, yes, they even take legal action when deemed properly. But ‘properly’ for Sulake is the exact moment these ‘hotels’ are trying to become the real thing. When retroservers start trying to build a community, hold competitions or even start selling their configuration. The ‘Keep it real’ campaign my bosses started didn't accidentally start in US and Holland. It’s countries where (Habbo, and thus) retroservers are popular.”