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NSA Collect Gamers' Chats and Deploy Real-Life Agents Into WoW and Second Life 293

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-the-horde dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with news that some NSA agents were trying to dig up info by joining the horde. "To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs. That vision of spycraft sparked a concerted drive by the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ to infiltrate the massive communities playing online games, according to secret documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.....The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which has more than 48 million players. Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users."
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NSA Collect Gamers' Chats and Deploy Real-Life Agents Into WoW and Second Life

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  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:54PM (#45640587)

    We've read recently that the NSA types are becoming disaffected by their jobs.

    So letting them play WoW on company time will help with that, eh?

    • Re:Well, of course. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:58PM (#45640631) Homepage Journal

      But more seriously, that disaffection that MMO players seem to exhibit in spades is one of the characteristics of al qeada era terrorists. Being middle class, disillusioned, Muslim, male, single, and approaching middle age is the basic profile of an ideal recruit to them.

      • I thought there was a story a while back about the games communication channels (sorry, I am not a gamer so please forgive my terminology) being used by some actual terrorist types? No telling if it is true, of course, since it seems to be no more than security through obscurity, which is no security really. Anybody else recall anything of the like?
        • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:20PM (#45640859) Homepage Journal

          Of course the intelligence community is going to leak such a story, or ten, or a thousand. They want us to believe that they are actually catching terrorists, and they want us to believe that all they money they are pissing away is well spent. So, they'll tell us that they are catching Al Queda terrorists on WoW, and all the other gaming worlds.

          I certainly hope that they have infiltrated the online doll makers and doll costume crowd. I know of at least one red headed Pagan who frequents those sites. That woman is a holy terror, and God knows what kind of people she associates with!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cold fjord (826450)

            The potential is there. Isn't it one of the complains against the security agencies that they show a "failure of imagination" in dealing with potential terrorist threats, resulting in spectacular attacks like 9/11? Are you suggesting perpetuating that? Should the terrorists "out think" the security agencies?

            MetaTerror: The Potential Use of MMORPGs by Terrorists By Andrew Cochran [counterterrorismblog.org] - 2007

            While the makers of Second Life (Linden Labs) pursue an admirable utopian ideal these metaverse systems can potentially also be used by those seeking to pursue a radical agenda. Many of the overwhelmingly positive features of Second Life can be adapted for negative Real Life means. The rapid and potent way in which communication takes place would seem to be an ideal platform for recruitment into radical groups, especially given the age range of those engaged in the world, which is typically 18-34. The teaching capabilities of the world can clearly be adapted for use by terrorists.

            Streaming video can be uploaded into Second Life and a scenario can easily be constructed whereby an experienced terrorist bomb-maker could demonstrate how to assemble bombs using his avatar to answer questions as he plays the video. Using the decentralized organization effect, already successfully used by SL companies, the bomb-maker and his pupils can be spread around the globe and using instant language translation tools (available in the world) could be speaking a variety of languages. Just as Real Life companies such as Toyota test their products in Second Life so could terrorists construct virtual representations of targets they wish to attack in order to examine the potential targets vulnerabilities and reaction to attack. But possibly by far the most useful tool currently available to radical groups is the ability to transfer in-world money between avatars that can be translated into real currency. The Second Life currency of Lindens (approximately $270L to $1US) can be bought using a credit card in one country and credited to one avatar (account) and can be given to a co-conspirator avatar in another country. The person controlling this second avatar can then convert these lindens to the real-world currency wherever they are based using a local credit card or paypal equivalent. Clearly the ability to transfer money in this fashion is a very useful function. While Linden Labs sets a limit on the amount of currency an avatar can buy or sell (typically $5000US) this is likely to change and $5000 gets you a long way in many parts of the world.

            DETECTING MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORISM FINANCING ACTIVITY IN SECOND LIFE AND WORLD OF WARCRAFT [ecu.edu.au] - 2010

            In recent years there has been much debate about the risks posed by virtual environments. Concern is growing about the ease in which virtual worlds and virtual reality role-playing games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft can be used for economic crimes such as financially motivated cybercrime, money laundering and terrorism financing. Currently, virtual environments are not subject to the strict financial controls and reporting requirements of the real world, therefore, they offer an excellent opportunity for criminals and terrorism financers to carry out their illegal activities unhindered and with impunity. This paper demonstrates the need for suitable approaches, tools and techniques which can be used to detect money laundering and terrorism financing in virtual environments and introduces a research project which aims to establish a comprehensive set of behaviour maps, rule bases and models to help in the fight against organised crime and terrorism.

            Technology is n

            • Re:Of course (Score:5, Informative)

              by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -retrograde.com'> on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:03PM (#45641953) Homepage

              You offer scoffing and snark, not insight. Or is it just a failure of imagination?

              It's correct to scoff at folks who are scared of Terrorists. You're insinuating that terrorists are nothing to sneeze at, but The Flu Kills Six Times more people EVERY YEAR than a 9/11 attack. [cdc.gov] Cars and Cheeseburgers kill FOUR HUNDRED TIMES more people than a 9/11 scale attack. You're OK with pissing away taxes to have government agents protect us from WOW playing terrorists? Come the fuck on, man. You sound fucking hysterical and moronic to boot. Do you want to ask permission from a TSA agent before you're allowed to dial the phone? Do you want a DHS employee riding with you in your car, and tossing out your French fries to "protect" you? No. It's been over a decade since 9/11... The cost of our freedom and privacy spent by the NSA is far too much just to "protect" us from something that's one 4000th of the threat encountered on a trip to McDonalds.

              So fucking what if in-game currency is used to to channel funds. The threat is fucking pathetic compared to even the greater threat of falling down in the bathtub.

              • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:16PM (#45642813)
                What's the difference between a cow and 9/11? You stop milking a cow after a few years.
              • Damn right (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:22PM (#45642875)

                In North America, more people are killed every year by their own furniture falling on them than by terrorism. Terrorism the single most over-hyped thing I can remember hearing about in my lifetime.

                Terrorists are cowardly criminals and even if they were blowing up a large government building every week they could not do any lasting and significant harm to an actual free and democratic society.

                However, people are over-reacting to terrorism, and allowing the media and authoritarian types in government to fear-monger about it and use it as an excuse to help push petty tyrannies like the TSA and even serious threats to liberty like the NSA spying on all of us. AMERICANS ARE DAMAGING THEIR GREAT NATION by allowing this to happen. Your Constitution used to mean something, something incredible and empowering. It made you the envy of the developed world and created great opportunities for those who were clever and worked hard to make a better world for themselves and others. You need to wake up, reclaim your country and stop this downward slide into totalitarianism.

                • Re:Damn right (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by runeghost (2509522) on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:46PM (#45643125)

                  In North America, more people are killed every year by their own furniture falling on them than by terrorism. Terrorism the single most over-hyped thing I can remember hearing about in my lifetime.

                  Terrorists are cowardly criminals and even if they were blowing up a large government building every week they could not do any lasting and significant harm to an actual free and democratic society.

                  However, people are over-reacting to terrorism, and allowing the media and authoritarian types in government to fear-monger about it and use it as an excuse to help push petty tyrannies like the TSA and even serious threats to liberty like the NSA spying on all of us. AMERICANS ARE DAMAGING THEIR GREAT NATION by allowing this to happen. Your Constitution used to mean something, something incredible and empowering. It made you the envy of the developed world and created great opportunities for those who were clever and worked hard to make a better world for themselves and others. You need to wake up, reclaim your country and stop this downward slide into totalitarianism.

                  Yep. Osama bin Laden, for all that he's dead, basically won. And his biggest ally was the US security industry.

              • by EdIII (1114411)

                The threat is fucking pathetic compared to even the greater threat of falling down in the bathtub.

                I'm a big man and a I fell down in the bathtub once. It was terrible and awesome. Lucky to have survived quite frankly.

                That being said, I still fear the terrorists more.

                By terrorists, I mean our government. After all, they're the only ones taking away my freedoms, fucking up my economy, and conspiring with lobbyists and corporations to make themselves rich at my expense.

          • It's not as daft as you might first think. This is a genuinely serious avenue that many will believe should be monitored.

            When I worked for another huge online MMO catching exploiters, botters, real world traders and gold farmers, there was a genuine and perhaps justified concern about real life criminality among the player base. The fact is that virtual currency has real world value. Buying very sought after items or mountains of gold and then reselling it in a different currency gives you a perfect wa

            • It's widely rumored in EVE that the Russian mafia are involved. I don't know how true the stories are, but they are based on events Russian alliances spending tens of thousands of dollars of real money to maintain control of key areas, and rumors of people recieving death threats or finding the power cables to their homes cut during major battles.

              It might just be people getting over-imaginative, but it isn't impossible. Online gaming combined with the grey market that certainly exists for PLEX could be a go

          • by mitcheli (894743)
            I'm just waiting for the word that they've infiltrated porn networks (a concept I'd consider completely feasible for "dirt"). Given the Government's long held, and completely zero tolerated rule on surfing porn at work, I sense that this revelation would be ... messy.
        • You might be thinking of an opinion piece last month [tampabay.com] about terrorists laundering money through Online Gambling. It was a Schneier Movie-Plot Threat [schneier.com] article.
        • by Guppy (12314)

          Anybody else recall anything of the like?

          Dunno, does Goonswarm count? :)

        • by mellyra (2676159)

          I thought there was a story a while back about the games communication channels (sorry, I am not a gamer so please forgive my terminology) being used by some actual terrorist types? No telling if it is true, of course, since it seems to be no more than security through obscurity, which is no security really. Anybody else recall anything of the like?

          I remember intelligence agencies being concerned about this but have never read of an actual case. If you look past the surface the whole idea sounds pretty silly to me - why would you use a communications channel that you know for sure logs are kept of?

          The advantages - the chat traffic you produce looks innocently, is encrypted, is in a relatively obscure (game specific) format and flows via a middle man (the game server) - sound nowhere near unique enough to justify having all your conspiratorial convers

      • Re:Well, of course. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ememisya (1548255) on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:13PM (#45642765)
        I am middle-class, disillusioned, Muslim, male, single and approaching middle age. Thankfully I don't play WoW, nor do I facebook, and exactly for these reasons. I got into a fight in highschool for being from Turkey during 9/11 because one kid decided to scream, "Turkey did it!", you know, they're all the same those brown bastards. Now I fear that guy might be employed by the pick-your-3-letter-agency, and no I'm not going to be like Yakov Smirnoff and walk around with a flag pin to show my patriotism, and I hope this insanity will stop before we reach the "burn a number on your skin" stage, I'm hoping even way before, lets round up all the Japanese stage.
        • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:09PM (#45643367) Homepage Journal

          Sorry, I didn't mean to tar an entire group of people. That really wasn't my intent, but it does come across exactly that way. Which is indefensible, and you have my apologies, if nothing else. I know that even if I didn't mean it as a judgement, the kind of people who would judge you would see that kind of statement as validation of their beliefs.

          I, in no, way, shape, or form think that even a tenth of a percentage of people meeting those descriptors would actually even consider terrorism morally acceptable.

          Again, sorry, that post was, at the very least, insufficiently clear.

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Based on what I have seen of WoW players, it seems to be able to suck hours from them whether they find is satisfying or not, so it might actually both decrease satisfaction and increase retention; possibly sapping from them even the motivation to look for a new job.

      While at the same time, making it impossible for them to complain because nobody will sympathise. I await them to start sueing the NSA for the metal stress of the situation leaving them incapable of doing anything but playing video games, could

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        With what a lot of WoW players write, I'm amazed the NSA doesn't sue them for pain and suffering when some poor slob has to look through the stored Barrens chat logs.

        The command "grep -v -i 'anal'" will cut out 99% of the text though.

    • Well it would make sense for using MMORG for communication especially for communicating violent activities.
      As similar activities are part of the game. You would expect the communication wouldn't raise any red flags.

      • Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

        by s.petry (762400) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:12PM (#45640801)

        If you were a terrorist organization, you would play a video game where chats are monitored by the company as a rule? No you would not. Monitoring text is clearly in the EULA of these games, and private chats are logged just like group/party, raid, etc.. chats are logged. If you truly believe in this fantasy of propaganda please go visit your local mental health professional and request medication immediately.

        Now if you were asking "Are some corrupt fuckers in a 3 letter agency advocating that agents try to recruit people on these MMO sites?" my reply would be different. Sure they would. Numerous 3 letter agencies have made it a habit of trolling forums and Facebook looking for patsies. They even found a few of them and gave them everything they needed including targets so that they could heroically save the day by busting the patsy at the scene of the crime with fake explosives that the agency provided. I don't put any shitty tactics beyond these people at this point.

        • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Informative)

          by Joce640k (829181) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:30PM (#45640973) Homepage

          If you were a terrorist organization, you would...

          If I were a terrorist organization I would download on of the dozens of free encryption programs on the web and USE IT. Even a zip file with a long password would do the job.

          Any belief that the NSA is catching real, dangerous terrorists with all their spying is fucking stupid. The same goes for the TSA. The only reason nobody's shooting random people or blowing stuff up all over the place is because nobody wants it badly enough. If they did, well, look at what happened in Boston...

          • Re:Rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@@@carpanet...net> on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:45PM (#45641167) Homepage

            > The only reason nobody's shooting random people or blowing stuff up all over the place is because
            > nobody wants it badly enough. If they did, well, look at what happened in Boston...

            Exactly. Hell I was just hearing on NPR about a refugee camp where "home made rifles" were found. How hard is it to get a tank of propane or a sack of flour? How hard is it to get gasoline, sulfuric acid, or nitrate containing soil? Point is, if people want weapons they can and will make them, no matter what you try to do to stop them.

            anybody who is in touch with the world enough to be able to read, do math, and generally solve problems and make plans can put together his own weapons of some sort, including bombs. There are plenty of examples of people who did it (many of whom were not even terrorists and didn't hurt anyone; if not most, since there are more teenagers living in the sticks with fuck all to do than there are terrorists)

            So where does that leave us? If most teenagers who really set their mind to it could come up with a way to blow shit up, why is it shit isn't blowing up for the most part? Why do we not have bedlam?

            There really is only that one answer.

            • There really is only that one answer.

              I know! The NSA's snooping combined with the TSA's probing have kept us safe. Amen.

            • So where does that leave us? If most teenagers who really set their mind to it could come up with a way to blow shit up, why is it shit isn't blowing up for the most part? Why do we not have bedlam?

              There really is only that one answer.

              Exactly! Where are all those attacks that should be happening? Is there a conspiracy of silence?

              Mass shootings in America: A history, 1999 through 2013 [nydailynews.com]

              Why do we never hear about them on Slashdot!?

              27 Reported Killed In Connecticut Elementary School Shooting [slashdot.org]
              12 Dead, 50 Injured at The Dark Knight Rises Showing In Colorado [slashdot.org]

              I agree, there really is only one answer. That is that people conveniently "forget" or ignore facts contrary to their argument.

              FBI’s Top Ten News Stories for the Week Ending Januar [fbi.gov]

              • by TheCarp (96830)

                The very fact you have to go to documents that span a decade or more just to get their numbers up proves my point far more than I expect you will realize.

                • Likewise the fact that ignore the many arrests and convictions just goes to prove my point. And note that I didn't even make an effort to include the many reports of extremists leaving the US and Europe to go to areas with hot conflicts where they can fight. That is one of the major concerns of the various security services - that nationals will go to Syria or other areas, train and fight, and return to prepare for future mischief.

                  The fact that things at home are relatively peaceful today does not mean th

              • by s.petry (762400) on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:50PM (#45643173)

                More rubbish from the shill CF. Let me break down your list of trash: The Underwear bomber was pushed onto a plane by 3 letter agencies against all better judgement including a protesting police officer. A court case in Michigan proves that it was wrong doing by the 3 letter agencies and NOT some brilliant terrorist. All of the other cases of busted terrorists, every one, deals with a patsy working with a 3 letter agency who provided both the target and the materials. We used to call this entrapment, and should do so again.

                Boston, you have a 3 letter agency that kills a friend of a suspect cold blooded, and lots of questions regarding the rest. The naked unarmed teenager that was allegedly shooting at police from a boat for example. I'm not claiming the brothers are innocent, but that we don't know what happened from truthful eyes. We have proof that the supposedly "good" guys are out murdering innocent people. Two wrongs don't make a right and all that. Scratch that one from the list.

                Remove the mass shootings from your list, because they are NOT terrorist attacks. Those are cases of allegedly sick individuals that allegedly committed crimes.

                You have nothing on your list that is an actual "terrorist" attack. Nothing!

          • by xevioso (598654)

            Well, to be fair, one of the truisms that law enforcement counts on is the fact that criminals are stupid. Not all, but quite a few, and the same goes for terrorists. You have to hope that some of them are dumb enough to make these sorts of mistakes.

            • by Joce640k (829181)

              The underpants bomber, show bomber, etc. were all to stupid to manage to set off their bombs, they were on "Law Enforcement" lists, they travelled one way with no luggage...but they were both allowed to board aircraft.

              Counting on the enemy being stupid is a pretty stupid thing to do. If that's your reason for giving up your freedom, you need to get out more.

            • If they are that dumb, I'm not too scared of them. They might be able to shoot a few people, maybe even put together a rather pathetic bomb, but they aren't going to be slaughtering thousands.

        • by jtara (133429)

          Dunno about other platforms, but Playstation game chat is typically not 100% monitored, or even close. They rely mainly on reporting by users. There is some spot monitoring.

          FWIW, I wrote a moderation system used by Playstation sports-related games. Interesting the things that are moderated - for example, track layouts for racing games. One might make them in interesting shapes. But as long as you don't make one in the shape of a body part, I doubt anyone would realize that it means "begin the attack at 070

        • by synapse7 (1075571)
          I'm surprised there was no mention of CounterStrike or vent. I mean if a guy continuously picks the terrorist side... or NSA agents aren't leet enough to hang with that crowd either.
        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          No you would not.

          Yes I would.

          If I had ill intent, I would use whatever communication channels raise the least suspicion. If I'm worried about an investigation, a fully-encrypted chat client on my computer or an account at a secure email provider are hard to explain away, but an XBox just implies that I like playing games. My chats with my friends might not be terribly interesting on their own, and anybody reading the logs wouldn't really care if we set up raids that had to be canceled later, but those canceled plans could r

          • by s.petry (762400)

            I smell another CF like shill. No you would not use plain text logged chats as a communication method for terrorism. An eight year old gets that they would be caught using this method of communication. So you are either less intelligent than an eight year old, or a liar.

            I think you should look at entrapment and how it's defined versus what we are currently allowing (which a very short time ago was illegal under entrapment). Just because it's being overlooked does not make it legal, or morally right. If

        • by phorm (591458)

          Might work out well enough if you had a pre-set bunch of codes that correspond to real events/locations in game.
          For example, "going on a raid tonight @ 12 against the great dragon in the keep of death, bring a LVL12 wizard, shaman, and a tinker" might translate out into a 3-person team with a bomb expert etc hitting a predesignated location. It would be pretty hard to differentiate that between real game chats, or prove in court (ha!) that it was actually terrorist double-speak. It would also be less suspic

      • It would also make sense such communication was done via private channels (all games have private messaging). So the way one would monitor that would be via their normal intelligence hoovering methods, not via playing the game.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      That would explain the number of morons you run into in WoW....

    • by meerling (1487879)
      Not if they are subjected to Barrens chat or Whoreshire.
      (If you've played, you know what those are.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:54PM (#45640593)
    We have word that xXxNoScopezN00bKill3rxXx will dip his balls on the President at 21:00!
    • Don't worry, we have a hefty blackmail file on him to get him to back down. Our sources indicate that his mother has had sexual relations with a majority of people who have played against him, I'm sure he wouldn't want that to get out...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:55PM (#45640595)
    Good thing someone is watching over SecondLife. Maybe they can finally get enough data to fully explore the sexual proclivities of furries in an unconstrained environment.
    • Who really cares about the sexual proclivities of furries? I'm more worried about the proclivities of these secretive anal spies. They seem to be getting off on the conversations of pre-pubescent young men of all ages.

    • SL is actually a very bad place to go for that. Literacy standards are very low compare to other communities.

  • by jddeluxe (965655) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:55PM (#45640599)
    They're not infiltrating anything; some of the sharper razors there have scammed their PHB's into letting them play WoW all day and get paid for it....
    • They're not infiltrating anything; some of the sharper razors there have scammed their PHB's into letting them play WoW all day and get paid for it....

      Now THAT is a theory that meshes with my bureaucratic experience!

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:24PM (#45640905) Homepage

        I think you mean:

        The actualized concept of a next-generation cloud-based synergistic teambuilding-as-a-service ad-hoc exercise correlates with the data previously acquired through empirical research regarding organizational executive judgement calls in relation to morale and outreach endeavors on an accelerated timeline.

        I've been working directly under C-level execs on and off for the past decade. It's not too obvious, is it?

    • Do they really need to play? I'd imagine they were just have direct access to the chat logs and that those would be filtered for certain keywords or against certain suspect players.

    • by TrippTDF (513419)
      Wouldn't getting access to Blizzard's servers make this a whole lot easier? Couldn't you just mine the player data and make Blizzard record the conversations that take place in-game, rather than actually walk around in WoW?
  • Clever bastards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:56PM (#45640611)

    I'm generally opposed to the NSA's actions, but I have to admire the ones who were clever enough to talk their superiors into paying them to play WoW all day in the interests of national security.

    • "L80 tier 2 rogue LFG bomb embassy"

      I don't think that's how it happens. I'm not sure what they expect to find playing WoW.

    • Your tax dollars at work! And aren't y'all proud? Gotta love America. Anything is justifiable there. Sad. Really sad.

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      I'm generally opposed to the NSA's actions, but I have to admire the ones who were clever enough to talk their superiors into paying them to play WoW all day in the interests of national security.

      Yeah, I built a proof-of-concept to convince my employer to manage our servers via a Minecraft interface, but had no luck there :/ It came out even better than http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URVS4H7vrdU [youtube.com] ... there were levers and status redstone to bounce services, little sheep flowing in a river across a glass screen to indicate web traffic, even mooshrooms-on-minecarts for automated deployment pipelines...

      Anyway, I bow to our NSA overlords.

  • by readandburn (825014) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:56PM (#45640615)
    I kid, I kid.
    • I think you're on to something. If we can find out who is providing the 74 virgins to the suicide bombers, we'll have found the real source of all the terrorism. It only makes sense to stake out places that have a high percentage of virgins running around.

      It makes almost perfect sense! The only question left, really, is why anyone would want 74 of these [imgur.com].

  • by phoenix03 (3348193) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:59PM (#45640645)
    Now the government will know when Stormwind raids will take place.
  • by Bruce66423 (1678196) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:59PM (#45640647)
    When she complains you're spending all your time in WoW, you can say you're trying to get a job with the NSA...
  • oh look... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:00PM (#45640657)

    "Here's yet another way we can funnel tax payer money to private contractors under the guise of our black budget." Brilliant. I bet he got promoted for this.

  • Pathetic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:01PM (#45640665)

    The surveillance revelations so far have been scary, sinister, infuriating, offensive. But this one? This is just... sad.

    OK, bad guys could potentially use the in-game comms functions on X-Box live to plans their nefarious deeds, but do we really need to be paying teams of people to go into the games and play them all day long? If they really need to snoop on that shit (they don't) then couldn't they just hoover up all the conversations and analyse them offline like they do our emails, phone calls, texts etc? What additional benefit does having someone actually in the game world offer? Are they worried that somewhere out there a virtual ogre and elf controlled by kiddie-porn-terrorists are communicating in avatar sign language or something? This is fucking ridiculous.

    Our government is telling us they can't afford basic shit like hospitals and education and welfare, but they can afford to pay dorks to play Xbox all fucking day. I get the feeling some very ballsy gamer put together a presentation to get paid taxpayers' money for playing CoD all day long and hit the jackpot. If there was any justice on this fucking planet we'd all be knee deep in fired "intelligence" agents months ago.

    • The surveillance revelations so far have been scary, sinister, infuriating, offensive. But this one? This is just... sad.

      OK, bad guys could potentially use the in-game comms functions on X-Box live to plans their nefarious deeds, but do we really need to be paying teams of people to go into the games and play them all day long? If they really need to snoop on that shit (they don't) then couldn't they just hoover up all the conversations and analyse them offline like they do our emails, phone calls, texts etc? What additional benefit does having someone actually in the game world offer? Are they worried that somewhere out there a virtual ogre and elf controlled by kiddie-porn-terrorists are communicating in avatar sign language or something? This is fucking ridiculous.

      Our government is telling us they can't afford basic shit like hospitals and education and welfare, but they can afford to pay dorks to play Xbox all fucking day. I get the feeling some very ballsy gamer put together a presentation to get paid taxpayers' money for playing CoD all day long and hit the jackpot. If there was any justice on this fucking planet we'd all be knee deep in fired "intelligence" agents months ago.

      If I had mod points you'd be a god.

      Woudl you settle for an "atta' boy!"?

      • I agree. You are, indeed, a god!! You've hit the proverbial nail right on the fucking head!!!

        The surveillance revelations so far have been scary, sinister, infuriating, offensive. But this one? This is just... sad.

        OK, bad guys could potentially use the in-game comms functions on X-Box live to plans their nefarious deeds, but do we really need to be paying teams of people to go into the games and play them all day long? If they really need to snoop on that shit (they don't) then couldn't they just hoover up all the conversations and analyse them offline like they do our emails, phone calls, texts etc? What additional benefit does having someone actually in the game world offer? Are they worried that somewhere out there a virtual ogre and elf controlled by kiddie-porn-terrorists are communicating in avatar sign language or something? This is fucking ridiculous.

        Our government is telling us they can't afford basic shit like hospitals and education and welfare, but they can afford to pay dorks to play Xbox all fucking day. I get the feeling some very ballsy gamer put together a presentation to get paid taxpayers' money for playing CoD all day long and hit the jackpot. If there was any justice on this fucking planet we'd all be knee deep in fired "intelligence" agents months ago.

        If I had mod points you'd be a god.

        Woudl you settle for an "atta' boy!"?

    • by niado (1650369)

      Our government is telling us they can't afford basic shit like hospitals and education and welfare, but they can afford to pay dorks to play Xbox all fucking day.

      The point you are trying to make - that we spend too much on military intelligence (some of which seems quite silly) is a good one. However, you are stating as a false dichotomy.

      We aren't paying intelligence agents to play video games instead of paying for social services, because the budgets are not done with that level of granularity. The government (and, by extension, the voting public) has determined the priority of intelligence/military spending vs. social spending, and hashes out the budgets for t

      • by djmurdoch (306849)

        If the budget for intelligence agents were not so bloated, they would spend it more wisely.

        The fact that you are paying agents to play WoW is just a sign that you are paying them to do all sorts of wasteful things. Cut their budget to 10% of its current level, and you won't have agents playing WoW. Or if you still do, then cut it to 1% of its current level.

    • Our government is telling us they can't afford basic shit like hospitals and education and welfare, but they can afford to pay dorks to play Xbox all fucking day.

      I'm thinking of sending a bunch of fiddles to Washington to our government for Christmas.

      They could play the fiddles like Caesar Nero while our country burns down.

  • So few of even those who understand what the government is doing were interested, much less concerned, or more properly, panicked and furious beyond belief. Maybe this will ring a bell that means something to them?

  • According to the NYT article http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/world/spies-dragnet-reaches-a-playing-field-of-elves-and-trolls.html [nytimes.com]
    In 2007, as the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies were beginning to explore virtual games, N.S.A. officials met with the chief technology officer for the manufacturer of Second Life, the San Francisco-based Linden Lab. The executive, Cory Ondrejka, was a former Navy officer who had worked at the N.S.A. with a top-secret security clearance.

    He visited the agency

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:17PM (#45640837)

    I love gaming. I have spent far too much time at it. The thought that somebody in our nation's government is getting paid to do it and spy on the rest of us while doing so is ludicrous. The NSA will never be able to assemble enough SIGINT to prevent anything, only follow key words retroactively to find perpetrators after it's too late. In the meantime, the temptation to exploit casual behavior for political ends is too overwhelming.

    The NSA represents the most existential threat to our freedom as Americans that has ever been, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union combined & included. If we fail to put an end to the NSA, then what happens with China, Russia, and Islamic terrorism is entirely moot.

  • NSA Collect Gamers' Chats and Deploy Real-Life Agents Into WoW and Second Life

    ...or more like the Matrix?

  • Meh, no surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:27PM (#45640939)

    Games could serve multiple purposes: out of band communications (i.e. not phone, email, or mail), rehearsals, and recreation. Since the Caliphate is going to be a while in coming they have some time to kill.

    I don't think there is any surprise that WoW or similar games would have broad appeal, even among terrorists. After all, the Harry Potter books have been among the most popular reading for inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

    What Prisoners Are Reading at Gitmo [time.com]

    ... Harry Potter. He may not come riding in on the back of a hippogriff to free his favorite captives from their own version of Azkaban, but he shows up once a week on a cart of books from the prison library, offering an escape of the imagination treasured by many. Indeed, the Harry Potter series has been one the most popular titles among the 18,000 books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers on offer from the prison library at Guantánamo.

    Other offerings in the library started in 2003 include the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Twilight series and a self-help book called Don't Be Sad. Prisoners don't browse the shelves of this particular library; instead, they wait for a weekly visit by a cart of books prison officers think they might be interested in. There are mysteries and books of poems, copies of National Geographic magazine (a favorite), dictionaries and science textbooks. If the prisoners see something they like they are allowed to check it out for 30 days.

    The library's offerings now span some 18 languages including Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, Russian, French and English. Officers scan newspapers to stay up on the latest titles and try to meet requests from prisoners — though finding books in their native languages can sometimes be a challenge. "I tell ya, Dan Brown's been beating me up lately," says Navy Lt. Robert Collett, who as the officer-in-charge of detainee programs, is known as 'Dean of Gitmo U'. "All his books are very popular, but we don't have all of them in Arabic." When the military has trouble finding a title in a certain language, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sometimes steps in. Martin De Boer, ICRC's deputy head of the regional delegation in D.C., says his group sometimes sends its representatives in far-flung places to local stores in order to answer requests for novels in Uzbek or magazines in Bahasa (the language of Indonesia). "Access to books and news from the outside is very important to the prisoners mental state," says De Boer.

  • will spy for epic lootz...
  • In places where is common to talk about killing thousands, sabotaging/bombing, fantasy names and even fantasy sex, a lot of people should have by now a big red marker on them, ended in no fly lists, rejected credits or got other real-life consequences of role playing chats with friends.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I miss gaming, I used to be really into it (see my sig, I ran what it's linking to every December on my Quake site) but the game companies themselves ran me off with their DRM, always have to be connected, can't resell, and all the rest of their stupid bullshit.

      So now I guess I should thank Epic and all the rest for sucking so much, That's one place the NSA won't be spying on me!

      I keep thinking of the movie Brazil.

  • Back in the Warcraft 2 days, I'd type in "It Is A Good Day To Die" and suddenly my orcs would be invulnerable. One lowly peon would be able to topple an entire human city in short order. Who knew that I was training to be a terrorist? Thankfully, I've veered off that path or who knows what other horrible actions that game could led me to commit!

  • I was playing GTAV:Online a couple of weeks ago and there were a couple of guys on there speaking Arabic and talking about Hezbollah and Syria. Now granted, both of those key words are probably common topics in that part of the world, and I do not speak Arabic so I do not have any context to go with the keywords. But, it does serve as an anecdotal data point to give validity to the claim that people are using in game comms to communicate about something other than the game that they are playing.

    If I were

  • Tin Foil Hat (Score:2, Insightful)

    by csumpi (2258986)
    Nobody could've said stuff like this a year ago without wearing an invisible Tin Foil Hat.

    Today nobody can say that the middle class is being destroyed in the name of strengthening the middle class, or big banks are getting bigger in the name of stopping too big to fail, without being called a Tea Bagger, a Bigot, or a Racist.

    In the meantime the rich are getting richer, the politicians more powerful, and don't care because the voters believe every lie they tell with a Straight Face.
  • From my perspective the use for NSA in going into the gamer realm would be more an exercise in infiltration techniques than any real threat hunt. Even covert agents needs training.

    It can also be a great channel for information exchange between NSA agents.

    The possibility to actually gather any useful real world intelligence from online multi-player games is at best questionable unless they have targeted a specific person that's identified already outside the game.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The UK and US may just like to watch any forming "dissent" and hope online communities will show trends before they shape into visable anti war/human rights/environmental/finance reform protests.
      Web 2.0 and online gaming communities seem to offer what "peace groups", 'bars', 'clubs', "unions' and 'universities" did in the past to the intelligence services.
      Then certain well funded NSA/CIA/GCHQ "front" groups can be pushed as been wonderful and protesters will be attracted to 'their' unique community formin
  • by koan (80826) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:31PM (#45641657)

    It's that simple.

  • by swb (14022) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:43PM (#45641759)

    ...it seems like every large web site/game has some kind of internal communications system, often a real-time chat function and an offline messaging system. These might be tough to monitor with any context simply off the wire, and in combat games it would be pretty easy to talk about organizing terrorist activity and trivially mask it in terms of game-based combat in a way completely opaque to an outside monitor.

    One of the oldest espionage tradecraft gimmicks (at least in books and movies) are coded messages places as advertisements in newspapers. If you've ever used IMDB you know that pretty much anyone who has a role in a movie automatically has their own IMDB page, including a message board about them. There are THOUSANDS of minor credited cast and crew members with totally blank or very low traffic message boards that likely to remain totally unseen and could be used for exchanging coded messages. Even the high traffic boards for popular actors or movies would be a good place to drop messsages.

  • Because that's where it looks like the terrorists would hide. Well, maybe Tanaris too.
  • by cstacy (534252) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:22PM (#45646267)
    I remember this recycled story from around 2008. The Linden Lab executive (who was also one of their main system creators originally) hasn't been with the company now for many years. This was all eons ago, but it's being brought back up in the wake of Snowden. The part about Linden Dollars and the Second Life economy is a little ridiculous, since the money is only useful for buying in-game virtual items. For example, terrorists getting some better high heels for their avatars. You can cash out Linden Dollars, but there are lots of limits and monitors on it, and you cash out through either your verified PayPal account or a bank check mailed to you. Neither of those are in any way anonymous, and they are tightly monitored by the feds at multiple levels. (You could get some IP addresses and in-game transaction information from Linden Lab if you were tracing back some accumulated cash-out; that might be useful intelligence, I guess.) Like any glorified chat system. The idea that terrorists are using Second Life for virtual training is a bad joke. No realistic scenario or actions could be created. You could use the primitive in-game 3D modeling to create a rough representation of the buildings and alleys or whatever. But very little could be communicated beyond that. Avatars can't actually do anything subtle - mainly they can just walk. Arms and hands don't do anything except point-and-click on scripted objects in the world. The scripting can make objects change texture/color and move around. Communication is a very primitive text chat system plus an in-game Voice system that doesn't work very well or reliably. So you could make a really crappy diagramatic 3D model of your bomb scenario, and walk your avatars around it. But you could do infinitely better by just looking at a street map, or Google Earth, and tracing your fingers and talking about it or whatever. Linden Lab advertises that it keeps Chat logs (etc.) for some period, six months was what they said at one point. However, I asked someone there once and they said, "Well, we've' never actually deleted any logs to date." Second Life is an interesting experiment along a number of axis, but it's capabilities are really quite primitive. They tried at one point to sell it to businesses as an online meeting system, and it was such a bad joke they gave up that marketing effort. IBM has an open-source version of the system that is integrated with some other IBM meeting software. There are other service providers running "grids" with the open-source version of SL. You can download the server and client onto your laptop if you want to play with it stand-along (or hook together with some other users and make your own network). But it doesn't have any specially great utility for terrorists. Any more than any other MUD/MOO/Mush type system. That was all just hype, years ago, from when Second Life was exciting and hyped and not understood. NSA monitors AOL chat rooms and whatever, too; it's just exactly the same thing. They didn't understand that a half decade ago when this "news" article first came out.

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.

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