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rAge 2019 and the NAG LAN – Stolen Property, Security Risks, and Sexual Harassment oh my!

Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN

The NAG LAN at the Vodacom rAge 2019 expo is one of the most anticipated events of the year. With an 8Gbps internet line and some extremely high-tech equipment, LANers from all over the country head to the TicketPro Dome for the weekend as they set up their expensive rigs, plug in their pricey gaming laptops and play together for three days straight. With so much equipment at the show, security has to be tight, which the show has yet to get right.

RELATEDVodacom rAge Expo 2019 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Like past years, security issues are still present at the show with thousands of rands worth of equipment being stolen during not only the LAN but the show too. On Thursday night, there was an incident at around 23:00 during the build-up process where an exhibitor’s phone was stolen while on charge in a cabinet.

A builder that claimed to be from the Matrix Warehouse stand sat down and claimed he was “admiring” the view of the stages at rAge 2019. Soon after, the stand owner noticed his phone was unplugged from his charger and missing.

Vodacom rAge 2019

The same Matrix Warehouse builder was found down the road with the said stolen phone after they used Android Manager to track its location. Witnesses we spoke to reported a stolen laptop at the Matrix Warehouse stand too.

Another report comes from ATK Arena where a Macbook was stolen from behind the desk. The rAge organizers approached the stand, asked a few questions and a member of the ATK Arena stand was told that “they would look out for it”. No attempt to look at camera footage or even a police report was opened after the theft took place.

But the security risks at the show are most present during the Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN, the 72-hour gaming event where players set up their expensive rigs for the weekend. Of course, you can’t be too careful and the Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN page warns guests in order to prevent theft, they should take their “mouse, headphones etc with you when you leave your table”. What happens to laptops and PCs?

Ina Marx Leuvennink posted a complaint on the rAge Expo Facebook page in regards to her son’s laptop being stolen while he was away from the desk. She claims the organizers failed to support him after it was stolen. According to Ina, her son was not allowed to watch the camera footage of the moment the device was stolen due to it “showing other people”.

The organizers then claimed the footage was “too dark” to see what went on when Eben’s R25k HP Omen laptop was snatched off his desk where him, his friends and his cousins set up shop. Ina and Eben both reported that the organizers did everything in their power to help the situation. They tried to ping the device on the LAN network while Eben searched the local online marketplaces for a chance of the thief posting it up on sale.

Vodacom rAge 2019

Eben described the situation as nerve-wracking as he stood for over two hours at one of the entrances looking out for his device in hopes that someone tried to leave the area with it. During the altercation, the rAge organizers claimed to have all the entrances to the LAN area locked down and on high alert but Eben states his friends told him they had walked in and out of the Blue Wing entrance without the security even searching them.

He is one of many attendees that noticed the security failing to check bags when leaving the venue. I even took it upon myself to enter the LAN area with a fairly large bag four times and was not searched once entering or exiting. Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN guests I spoke to claimed it was the same situation for them. No one was searched and when they were, they were only searched when entering the area.

Eben tried to phone the police emergency service number twice in which no one answered. He then states the police were turned away when they arrived two hours later at the gates of the venue after finally getting hold of them. No police reports and cases have been opened in regards to this stolen device.

Vodacom rAge Expo 2019

When speaking about the theft of Eben’s device, Erich Blaschczok, Head Admin at the Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN states the LAN crew tried to determine the possible suspects but the traffic around the area made it hard to see due to the public bathrooms and a food outlet being close to the vicinity.

Erich revealed the police were indeed unable to enter the perimeter of the venue for some reason. Even with the constraint, Eben was made aware that the event fully supported any investigation and would gladly assist any police to get to the venue if they had difficulty. A report was then opened the next day due to it being too dark for Eben and his mom to travel in an area they did not know too well.

Why the police were turned away when they first arrived is still not clear. It is concerning. Would there ever happen to be a worse case requiring a police force and they are unable to enter the venue, it is a problem we all hope to never face.

It is with great sadness that in the 17-year history of rAge, the first major gaming component found its way out of the Dome without its owner. One of the main positive aspects of Vodacom rAge is the sense of community between the gamers, their willingness to help each other and ensure that equipment is not tampered with by somebody not belonging. We believe the very long time absent from the equipment resulted in the surrounding gamers also not being present. This in conjunction with a high-end laptop sitting unsecured in a high traffic area proved too much of a temptation for a dubious person. 

 

Vodacom rAge has considered many options to ensure safety of both equipment and attendees to the event. Cost, convenience for attendees and the ability to implement and support the solution are all factors that play a role. The specific local environment provides additional challenges.

 

rAge has always been a safe place for the whole family. It is our sincere hope that this incident is considered within the environment that rAge operates and its 17-year history. We can only reiterate our request to not make it tempting by leaving cell phones and similarly easy to remove items unattended and call upon our gaming community to continue being vigilant with their and the surrounding equipment. Working together we hope that we will not have to relive this most sad incident again. It saddens us all greatly that innocent trust in strangers must be so rudely broken.

Erich Blaschczok, Head Admin - NAG LAN

Mark Sleep, Head of Security revealed the big issue they faced was the restrictions when it came to searching the people entering and exiting the LAN. They were legally prohibited from searching any person so they could not determine whether or not anyone placed the laptop under their clothing. Mark then confirmed again that the police were turned away at the dome for an unclear reason.

Mark Sleep claims that all bags were checked in and around the theft of the device but did not comment on why this procedure was not followed throughout the weekend – a common complaint from guests.

But Eben is not the only person that had property stolen during the weekend. Linda Louw Klopper posted another complaint about equipment being snatched.

Nadine Engelbrecht, a friend of Eben’s posted on the rAge Expo Facebook group where many frustrated guests shared their unfortunate experience. Her main issue seems to be a lack of security checks.

Saw about 5 security guys sitting at the doors and not a soul was searched walking out with gear and peripherals. Because of this, we were in fear the whole time that our stuff might be stolen so we had a clockwork routine of someone sitting by our stuff or we would normally return from the dome every 30min. I didn’t sleep very well as I kept checking to make sure that my bag, which was always lying right next to me strapped to my arm, was not cut off and taken.

Nadine Engelbrecht

Credit: NAG LAN

According to group members, the security was more worried about the food and drinks you brought into the area than the equipment.

Shaun Venter claims his cellphone was stolen while he was having a nap. He hid it under his keyboard and someone took it out of charge. The same goes for Heinz Heymann who lost a phone, mouse, USB drives and equipment at the Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN this year.

So what could be the issue? It seems the security flaws all boil down to the lack of attention awareness at the show. I spent a good amount of time in the area on Sunday asking attendees about their experience and the issue was clear, the security did not search bags, they were often not at their post and at one stage, I heard reports that one of them was asleep in his chair.

I tested the theory and walked around and even during the day when it was the busiest, I would walk in and out as I pleased. The escalator LAN entrance near entrance 3 was especially suspect. It was unmanned and leads straight onto the showfloor so one could easily grab some tech in the dark LAN area, go down the escalator and disappear into the crowd or right out the door which is just a few meters away.

Unfortunately, these things are bound to happen at a show as big as rAge. I am sure there are dozens of cases of stands losing equipment and other stolen goods. The LAN is just one aspect of it all. Everyone I spoke to did praise the organizers for showing dedication in helping track down the stolen items even if they were unsuccessful. Eben was given a handful of PC components by the rAge team too in order to apologise for the unfortunate mishap and set him on his way to building a new PC.

But for R700 you would expect more, right? That is the sentiment across the board from the LAN guests that were faced with security threats during the weekend. There is no doubt a sense of fear from them all in regards to the stolen property to the point where many of them struggle to sleep in fear of their belongings going missing while they try to catch a nap. I even had complaints about people being woken up quite rudely when they did go to sleep as the security guards would abruptly tell them they were not allowed to go to sleep.

Michael James explains why the sleeping factor could be an issue saying:

Why sometimes people who are sleeping in the NAG LAN are woken up, is that security will occasionally wake people up and ask them to move as we have to have clutter-free zones to ensure that in the event of an evacuation, everyone can leave the venue without anyone getting injured or trampled.  

Michael James, Vodacom rAge Founder and Senior Project Manager

The issues don’t end there. I had a LAN guest reach out to me who would like to remain anonymous. She claims she was sexually harassed during the weekend by another guest as she walked past them and was groped and cat-called. She screamed at the male LAN guest in which she claims he laughed and walked away. According to the victim, she brushed it off and continued to try and enjoy the rest of her weekend.

rAge 2019 NAG LAN

This is an issue the show has faced when it comes to the cosplay and it seems it has polluted the LAN now too. Unfortunately, other than catching the guy red-handed or raising awareness about the threat of sexual harassment at the Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN, the organizers have very little power to prevent this from taking place.

rAge and the security company reached out to GLITCHED to provide feedback on the event and the various reports during the weekend. Michael James, Vodacom rAge founder and Senior Project Manager revealed to me that next year, rAge will implement greater security measures to LAN guest including a mandatory Kingston lock policy for all notebooks and consoles. Michael states that the measure will be advised throughout the show floor too in order to help prevent further theft.

Over the 17 years of running the event, we have always done our utmost to make sure that that the expo is as safe an environment as possible.

 

As organisers, we work tirelessly behind the scenes to have official City approved safety and security in place over the course of the three days. Because of this, with the few incidents at previous events, we have escorted people from the event, as well as caught people engaged in criminal activity. Unfortunately, with this particular reported incident, our security was unable to apprehend the perpetrator as explained below.  We have and always will respond immediately to a reported incident and did so at this event, as well as engaged with the affected people

 

In addition to our response to any reported security issues that occur during the event, we are vigilant about advising and asking exhibitors and LAN attendees to also be aware of their own safety and security.  While we have security guards posted throughout the venue, both day and night, we always advise that smaller items are not left unattended as there is always the possibility – with the reality of the levels of crime in SA – that items can go missing. Legally, we are also prohibited from physically searching people should we suspect someone of theft.  

 

It is, unfortunately, an indicator of wider society when these types of incidents occur.  It saddens us that some of our visitors had a tarnished Vodacom rAge experience because of the actions of immoral people.

Michael James, Vodacom rAge Founder and Senior Project Manager

rAge 2019 NAG LAN

I have to give it to the organizers. They do have very little power when it comes to these unfortunate situations but with everything I have heard thus far, they tried their utmost to help the ones that fell victim to theft.  rAge is a big show and hopefully, these new security implementations go above and beyond next year to prevent this from happening again.

I still believe more could have been done to search people going out and to make sure the security was on top of things. Apart from the few listed incidents here, the general consensus amongst Vodacom rAge 2019 NAG LAN guests is that the security was shoddy and people did not feel like any of their belongings were safe at all. If you are attending the event, you will just have to be extra careful as you do your everyday life in SA.

GLITCHED wants to thank the rAge organizers for their willingness to help provide feedback on this matter.

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