Blizzard watermarks WoW screenshots with player info

A group of users on the OwnedCore forums discovered that screenshots taken in Blizzard's popular MMORPG World of Warcraft include watermarks that identify information like the account ID of the player who took the screenshot, a timestamp of when the screenshot was taken, and the IP address of the server the player is connected to.

Sendatsu, the OwnedCore member who compiled all the research done by the OwnedCore community, points out that this information can be used by hackers to identify the accounts of alternate characters and target users for attacks. Blizzard can also use this information to discover and track down private World of Warcraft servers that aren't being run and administrated by Blizzard itself.

The thread on OwnedCore includes instructions for revealing the watermarks in screenshots. The process recommends visiting the Crystalsong Forest, as the white trees provide an effective backdrop for finding the watermarks. After taking a screenshot, sharpening the image a few times using an image editing application will reveal the watermark, which is unique to each character.

The watermarks have been inserted in screenshots sometime between 2008 (Patch 3+) and 2010 (Patch 4+), which is after Activision acquired Blizzard. However, the watermarks are not included in high-quality screenshots taken from the game, so to prevent watermarks from being inserted into screenshots, you can simply run this command to set the screenshot quality to maximum:
/console SET screenshotQuality "10"

Source: OwnedCore Forums

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12 Comments

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Given our wonderful sue-happy country (US of course LOL), only seconds/minutes before a class-action lawsuit or 10 gets fired up. Not that I condone such action, it's just the way it is.

ir0nw0lf said,
Given our wonderful sue-happy country (US of course LOL), only seconds/minutes before a class-action lawsuit or 10 gets fired up. Not that I condone such action, it's just the way it is.

they have the no class action clause in their TOS

Manarift said,

they have the no class action clause in their TOS

I do believe previous cases have proven that the TOS/EULA mean crap when it comes to laws. If a state or the fed gov't has laws/rules that allow such lawsuits those portions of the TOS/EULA are null and void and a judge will just ignore them.

ir0nw0lf said,
Given our wonderful sue-happy country (US of course LOL), only seconds/minutes before a class-action lawsuit or 10 gets fired up. Not that I condone such action, it's just the way it is.

And only a few more seconds/minutes before 10 or so class-action lawsuits get thrown out.

Whatever they use it for, they didn't give you a warning notice, did they?
So they can suck it.

If I found out a game company did something like this to me and I'm happily spreading screenshots around and get hacked, you'd be sure I'd steer clear of their games and tell them to get some grip again.

GS:mac

Glassed Silver said,
Whatever they use it for, they didn't give you a warning notice, did they?
So they can suck it.

If I found out a game company did something like this to me and I'm happily spreading screenshots around and get hacked, you'd be sure I'd steer clear of their games and tell them to get some grip again.

GS:mac

There is none of your account info (I'm thinking login or e-mail) within the information in the watermark. The ID of the character the article mentions is internal and only Blizzard can associate it with the actual character.

In my opinion this is a perfectly acceptable tactic and I can't see why anyone would have qualms about it... unless they're hacking or leaking closed alpha screenshots (after agreeing not to), that is.

Additionally, it protects you against hackussations from other players using fabricated screenshots, because if they tamper with it, the watermark becomes corrupted.

Marcin Kurek said,

There is none of your account info (I'm thinking login or e-mail) within the information in the watermark. The ID of the character the article mentions is internal and only Blizzard can associate it with the actual character.

In my opinion this is a perfectly acceptable tactic and I can't see why anyone would have qualms about it... unless they're hacking or leaking closed alpha screenshots (after agreeing not to), that is.

Additionally, it protects you against hackussations from other players using fabricated screenshots, because if they tamper with it, the watermark becomes corrupted.

"It does contain the account ID, a timestamp and the IP address of the current realm." - Thats from the ownedcore post.

So yes, it contains your Account ID. Not even the battle.net email, but back before battlenet was introduced, and was used as part of the Login details. You can still login to the website or do account recovery with the account ID..

sagum said,
So yes, it contains your Account ID. Not even the battle.net email, but back before battlenet was introduced, and was used as part of the Login details. You can still login to the website or do account recovery with the account ID..

Fair enough. I stand corrected.

I'm pretty sure that most private servers are on a public listing and they'll willingly give you the IP address of the servers. It isn't hard at all to get the list.

For a bit of fun, I once wrote software to grab all the public listed servers and filtered them by uptime, version, IP, geolocate, latency, sign up pages, server IPs and ports, and would end up with about 4000+ servers at the end of a refresh.

However, for the rest of the private servers they're going to be just that and all bizzard is going to get is a LAN IP (e.g. 192.168.1.22) and its not going to help them.


Most of the servers that are run are for things such as older expansions, or in some cases, the base game. The classic World of warcraft experiance from blizzard is long gone. Its a shame too, because its an entire story line that is missing for new gamers wanting to join Azeroth.

Blizzard could cash in big time if they were to so something very simple such as opening up a few base game as free to play realms. Then they could have paid accounts upgrades with a character migration to the upto date realms.

Getting back to the topic of the screenshots. I'm now left wondering if all the hacking that goes on with accounts isn't more to do with people posting screenshots of their boss kills then it is rogue 'bot hacking' sites they used to proclaim was the users at fault.