Monday, January 4, 2010

OpenSimulator's Fail: Admin Powers for Sim Owners

For anyone who has run opensimulator at one point or another, you are probably already familiar with the "god powers", or the Admin menu. Like its name implies, it gives you some elevated powers that let you do things not normally possible. While very useful, they have a darker side to their utility.

By default, sim owners on OpenSimulator are able to obtain admin powers without restriction. There are three main admin powers that are of particular concern under the Admin->Object menu: Take Copy, Force Owner To Me, and Force Owner Permissive. The first two allow the sim owner to force ownership of a rezzed object to themselves, or to take a copy of it into their inventory. The last one, Force Owner Permissive, allows them to obtain creator permissions on a rezzed object: it effectively becomes full permission to them.

The implications of these abilities are obvious: a dishonest sim owner can become a content thief easily. All he needs to do is rez an object on his sim, or trick someone into rezzing the object, and can immediately take ownership and gain full permissions. But it doesn't just stop there. At least two online marketplaces for Second Life are branching out into OpenSimulator, allowing merchants to sell on opensim grids.

What does that mean? A dishonest sim owner can gain creator permissions on the ATM's and Vendors used by the marketplace, and gain full view of their networking protocols. Using this, they can steal funds from other marketplace users by spoofing their UUID's, or try and trick the system into delivering free merchandise to them.

Copybot can't do this: it can only "steal" the content it can see, and it is unable to grab the object contents because it can't see them. And even if it could see them, the permissions would prevent theft to a degree. But what can be done with admin powers is worse: copybot just rips what it can see. The admin powers let you directly grab the ownership of an object and change its permissions.

With these capabilities at the fingertips of sim owners, commercial activity within opensimulator grids simply is nowhere near viable. Virtual commerce can only be viable on grids that do not allow sim owners access to admin powers. To my knowledge, there aren't any grids which block access to admin powers. Not even professional grids like ReactionGrid block it. So, until we get grids that block access to admin powers, you can just forget trying to sell content on opensimulator.