Just like the title of this articles states, have you ever wondered how Microsoft patrols the security on Xbox Live? Have you ever had those times where you have thought to yourself ill report that guy he's cheating only to see that nothing as happened?
Well read on as we give you a inside look as to how Unicorn Ninja helps to keep everybody safe who uses Xbox Live.
If you are ever given the chance to go over to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, you may have the chance to walk down one of the many hallways that the building provides. One hallway in particular though is more interesting then all of the others combined as this is the hallway that has a big black curtain that stretches over one of the doors. Next to this curtain is a white board which as this message written across it Please do not disturb. Sensitive material behind curtain.
If you was to go behind the curtain you would come across a small tightly knit team who all police the service by tracking down Hackers, cheaters, phishers, account thieves, game code modifiers and communication abusers.
Boris Erickson one of the members who help police the service under the job role of Xbox LIVE Enforcement Unicorn Ninja had this to say If you're playing a game on Xbox LIVE, and somebody snipes you from across the map and you drop the F-bomb, we're not going to ban you not for the occasional slip. We focus on the really bad stuff, We are not here to be the arbiters of all speech. But there are certainly some kinds of communication on Xbox LIVE that crosses a line racism, homophobia, sexism, offensive comments about nationalities, and more.
From each day Erickson's inbox gets full of complaints and issues that are made across Xbox Live, and it's not just Erickson's inbox that gets full, its also his co-workers. Each member of the team normally has to deal with complaints about offensive behaviour, speech, and materials. This is normally dealt with by going through each case and deciding whether or not to deal with a certain individual by asking them to change something on their gamertag or profile, to just outright banning users for not following the terms of service.
The way Erickson worded it is as follows As we like to say, inviting them to not be our customer, These are paid subscriptions we're taking away, so we want to make sure we're doing exactly the right thing.
As we all know when you sign up to Xbox Live you sign up under the terms of service that are set in motion by Microsoft, This doesn't stop the ever growing number of rule breakers that appearing on the scene to wreak havoc and make everybody's day as miserable as can be.
We now pass over to Stephen Toulouse or who is more widely known to everybody on Xbox as StepTo, he as said that despite the growing numbers of users signing up to Xbox Live the number of complaints is still super small in comparison.
Looking at the stats, the cross-section of bad apples we deal with every day is small typically less than one percent of the overall population, The user complaint volume has tended to stay relatively flat compared to the line of new users. What that says to me is that our efforts are having an impact, and also that we're broadening our audience. We're bringing in different people that want to experience different things on Xbox LIVE, not just gaming, and at the end of the day that's going to improve everything. said Stephen in full detail.
Toulouse joined the Xbox Live team in 2007, this is when Xbox Live was still yet to hit one million users Enforcement was literally done by one guy with a spreadsheet who would go through the complaints once a week, We knew Xbox LIVE was going to explode, We knew we were on the cusp of something huge, especially when we saw how many people came into the service with the launch of Halo 3. It's important to note that it took many years for Xbox Live to reach one million users, from that stage onwards it only took an additional year to get to the two million mark.
Toulouse knew that he had to be one step ahead of the game to be able to enforce and keep Xbox Live as stable as it is today, so with that he slowly set about creating a team who would then go onto designing a tool or a system if you will that would help the team effectively take on all the trouble makers across the platform. The result that was made was a system that was called Vulcan
Erickson went onto say that It was designed on cocktail napkins, then coded and designed to allow people who do complaint investigations to do so in an efficient and accurate way, The enforcement agents also play games, Part of what we pay them for is to be out there in the community, listening for threats, looking for vulnerabilities, and reporting back to us..
On Xbox Live today the enforcers are using an updated version of Vulcan simply called Vulcan 2, the system helps sorting through the list of complaints faster then ever and with so much ease. This is so easy to use that because most of the enforcers are gamers as well, they can sift through the problems just by simply using a game pad like the rest of us.
Because most of the agents are also gamers, the agents themselves are experts in the language of l33t. This is a language more commonly known and used by hackers and it is used to simply bypass profanity filters.
Erickson went onto say We always appreciate having a diversity of knowledge, Everybody kind of brings their own little history to the table, and can interpret content in the way the rest of us can't.
Toulouse also agrees that having such a diverse team is the key to winning the online war against hackers and people up to no good, They are absolutely passionate about safety on Xbox LIVE, I personally believe that when you buy your Xbox LIVE subscription, you are getting us free in the box. Microsoft has invested in us, and we are invested in trying to make sure the experience is good.
Jason Coon and Andreas Holbrook round out the management team on security for Xbox Live, together with the rest of the team they all work one of three different shifts that help cover as much of Xbox Live as possible, together, they cover 18 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The reasoning behind why the team is so tightly nitted together is because There's a sort of gallows mentality, because we do have to deal with some pretty bad stuff during the course of our day, We talk openly and frankly about it and the effect it has on all of us. You can't help but need to talk after being exposed to the worst of the worst day in and day out Erickon went onto say.
The teams sometimes have to work together with different courts, law enforcement agencies and any other agencies that may come to mind. In a recent case the team had to work together with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on a case that was present on Xbox Live.
Because of the severity of the job, all of the agents who work for Unicorn Ninja division get to have palette cleansers which help brighten the mood in the office. The cleansers come in the form of browsing websites such as lolcats or I Can Has Cheeseburger. These are primarily used as a way to break away and to enjoy the job and not take it too seriously and start being harsh on gamers for the wrong reasons.
Whilst Xbox Live is always expanding, so is the security team that comes with it, Erickson personally believes though that never will their be a time when security on Xbox Live or even the world over will ever be full automated.
Most of the decisions need human eyes to keep it real, though we are moving into a realm where we're applying more automation to the process, with this they are solely trying to get rid of the worst of the worst. And with this we have to offer the question what as it done for their views on humanity?
Toulouse simply stated I've learned that the vast majority of people on our service are out there having fun. We have a great community, To the extent that we do see bad behaviour, it's often tied to the belief that they're anonymous, they won't get caught, and we're not looking. The vast majority of people are out there are trying to be excellent to each other
Erickson also had to agree by adding in The reality of working in the wild, wild west of the internet is that most people just want to be creative, and to use our products in social ways and to connect to people. And for the ones that don't, well, that just requires a bit of tweaking. We're slowly crumbling the nexuses of bad behaviour.
So there you have it folks that is how Xbox Live works to this very day, how do you feel now you have read it all. We would love to know and to see what reaction this article gets. So remember kids stay safe and obey by the rules and maybe you won't need to bump into one of these guys.