My sister alerted me of a new Internet game that is gaining popularity among kids called “Club Penguin.” In a sense, it’s a virtual world much like Second Life, except instead of being whatever you want, you’re constrained to being a penguin.
Within Club Penguin, you can buy items, such as pets, clothing, food, etc, and get jobs to work for money. You can send chat messages to the people who are in your virtual world. You can throw snowballs, dance, etc. You can add a particular penguin to your buddy list and send that penguin emails.
It has won lots of “awards” for being Kids Safe, but I still don’t trust it. Even though there is live moderation and message filtering, it’s the same game where people try to break the controls that are constraining them. Someone is going to find a way to infiltrate the system.
I decided to take a look at the security behind the application itself. I found that Club Penguin was sending messages over port 6112 in plain-text. This was surprising to me as I though there would at least be some encryption involved.
I did some simple packet sniffing on port 6112 to see what I could discover about the messaging protocol being used. At first, it looked a bit cryptic, but later discovered that there were some simple codes being used such as np, rp, sp, and sm which represented “new player,” “remove player,” “move player,” and “send message.” There is a user id tied to each of these actions, and it gives coordinates on the current map.
Anything that is said can be easily read in plain text. For example, I sent out the following message, “anyone hear me?” and the transmission that I was able to sniff was: %xt%m%sm%18%23348762%anyone hear me?%.
What does this mean? Any predator in your neighborhood can just tap in and listen to port 6112 and see who is playing Club Penguin in the neighborhood. He/she can watch everything that goes on, spoof the Club Penguin server, and send un-moderated, un-filtered messages to your child.
My advice is to watch what your children are doing online and become informed of potential dangers. There are people who would like to exploit this game. Several visitors have arrived at this post searching for “how to hack club penguins database,”Â “club penguin packet sniffers,” “club penguin 6112,” and “clubpenguin mail spoofing.” I’ll let you be the judge.
[Update: I’ve closed comments because of vandalism by people not mature enough to leave respectful comments]