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Sophos to bar Second Life on work computers

Lonely deviants may have to use own machines

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Security firm Sophos will offer sysadmins the ability to block users from online virtual world Second Life from next month.

The application control features of Sophos Anti-virus 6 will also be expanded to block Everquest, Lineage, Runescape, and Station Launch Pad from 3 April.

Sophos software already allows harassed network managers to stamp on a long list of online games. It includes notable bandwidth and productivity hogs such as Internet Backgammon and Hearts, both distributed by Microsoft, arch-enemy of biz IT.

(In a further insult to the corporate work ethic, the MSN Hearts page includes a link titled "15 Excuses for calling in sick", at the time of writing. Number five: broken leg snowboarding off roof while drunk.)

There are also facilities to stifle VoIP and filesharing services.

It would seem simple enough for competent sysadmins to cut off games themselves by denying access to MMOG servers or blocking ports, but there's no denying that it would be easier to have Sophos do it for you. The security firm doesn't charge extra for the service.

Furthermore, Sophos' Carole Theriault says admins can prevent rogue users from using Second Life and the other apps on company laptops away from the corporate network. She also noted that users and groups can be granted gaming privileges selectively if this fits in with the company's strategy - a useful feature for organisations such as Reuters, CNet, and the Swedish diplomatic service.

Second Life is always a headline grabber, partly due to the salacious electronic doings of some users (NSFW). But, in fact, the furry-penis and virtual fisting communities are a fairly insignificant online presence, according to analysts Screen Digest.

A recent report covering virtual world use by Europeans and North Americans, said the real titan of the online gaming universe was Blizzard's World of Warcraft (WoW).

The Western virtual-space market is now worth more than $1bn, according to Screen Digest's Piers Harding-Rolls. But conventional subscription-based platforms like WoW accounted for 87 per cent of that, with Blizzard alone taking over half of all virtual-fun revenue.

Thus far, it seems that most gamers prefer to kill monstrous creatures rather than have sex with them. There might be some overlap, however, as both recreational communities enjoy shopping for nonexistent stuff.

Unsurprisingly, Warcraft has been blocked by Sophos from the start. ®

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