Exploit History: Locking Auctions

In today’s post we want to look back at an exploit that got fixed with patch NW.50.20151022c.1 in October 2015. The notes state that “auction bids no longer can become stuck in a state where they cannot be outbid”, which closed a bug that enabled players to lock auctions and claim a presumably valuable item for a few ADs.

Normally users are able to outbid each other and every time they do so, they are getting their bid refunded through the mail system. An issue however arose whenever the character that currently owned the highest bid was no longer available, for example because it had been deleted. In that case, the system couldn’t refund the bid and outbidding failed for everyone else. Since the owner of the auction couldn’t take the auction down after the first bid as well, it changed into a stuck state until expiration.

So far so bad. Player could create characters to bid on certain items, then delete the toon and lock the auction this way. What made matters worse is the fact that once expired, the character could be recreated with the same name and then expired auction was delivered for the price of the bid, which of course normally used to be vastly under market value.

Exploiting this, players were effectively able to rob other adventurers that unintentionally, or simply because they didn’t know, were using a too small starting bid on their auctions. The bug never gained much popularity besides a few threads from disgruntled users, because the vast majority of auctions were buyouts that weren’t affected and people that dealt high value items normally were at least informed that enabling bidding could cause problems.

Another theory that we currently can’t confirm with the information we have was brought up in our forum. The bug could also have been used to artificially control the market price for an item. You could have posted an item greatly under market value and then delete the character that posted it so that nobody would have been able to buy it out. Proceed by buying out all undercutters for a certain amount of time, recreate the character, take down the threshold auction and resell the exploited items with a decent profit margin.

It’s not known since when the bug had been active and whether bans have been handed out for those that exploited it.


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One thought on “Exploit History: Locking Auctions

  • July 29, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Cool… except people are still locking down auctions. It hasn’t been fixed. I just had it happen repeatedly until I started googling wtf if going on and here I am. Done with ever attempting the auction house.

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