Blizzard has responded to numerous reports of Diablo 3 accounts being hacked by telling players that it's taking the matter "extremely seriously" and offering advice on a range of security measures open to them.
Community manager Bashiok said on the Battle.net forums: "We've been taking the situation extremely seriously from the start, and have done everything possible to verify how and in what circumstances these compromises are occurring.
"Despite the claims and theories being made, we have yet to find any situations in which a person's account was not compromised through traditional means of someone else logging into their account through the use of their password."
Among other measures, Blizzard suggests fans make use of the Battle.net authenticator, which is designed to provide extra account security. Each time players log in using the authenticator they are provided with a unique, one-time use password to use in addition to their regular password.
Blizzard said: "While the authenticator isn't a 100% guarantee of account security, we have yet to investigate a compromise report in which an authenticator was attached beforehand."
However, multiple users claim to have had their accounts compromised while using Battle.net authenticators, including Examiner journalist Tara Swadley. She states it's unclear whether the hacks are a result of an exploitable glitch within Diablo 3 or improperly secured accounts on the client side, but suggests:
"This reporter, after having her own account with authenticator hacked, firmly believes this is a serious security breach on Blizzard's side, though they either do not want to admit it, or are still unaware of the problem. Many who have had their account on Diablo 3 hacked were logged in at the time of the hack and support staff tells them there was no evidence of their account being hacked. That indicates there is an exploit in the system being taken advantage of."
Affected users can submit a ticket to request an account rollback, which will take characters back some levels and return some missing items and gold. However, Examiner reports that there are restrictions on the number of rollbacks available: "It seems to be two based on answers to submitted tickets - and that being hacked more than once will cause your account to be banned permanently from using the soon-to-be-released real money auction house".
If the problems aren't addressed in time for the planned launch of Diablo 3's real money auction house on May 29, expect to see plenty more angry reports about stolen items and gold being used for profit in the real world.
"We'd like to take a moment to address the recent reports that suggested that Battle.net and Diablo III may have been compromised," Blizzard also said in a lengthy official statement, which includes a number of safety recommendations and can be read in full here.
"Historically," it adds, "the release of a new game - such as a World of Warcraft expansion - will result in an increase in reports of individual account compromises, and that's exactly what we're seeing now with Diablo III.
"We know how frustrating it can be to become the victim of account theft, and as always, we're dedicated to doing everything we can to help our players keep their Battle.net accounts safe -- and we appreciate everyone who's doing their part to help protect their accounts as well."
While Diablo 3 has been well received by critics, the long-awaited action RPG suffered a troubled launch to say the least. Shortly after release last Monday the game crumbled under the pressure of players attempting to activate their copies online. The troubles persisted for days, forcing Blizzard to release an apology admitting that its "preparations for the launch of the game did not go far enough".
Our friends over at PC Gamer are also playing and updating as they go along, be sure to check out their Diablo 3 review as it happens.