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NSA Has Secret Agents Planted Inside World of Warcraft?

By - Source: The Guardian | B 33 comments

There's nowhere to hide.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has provided documents to The Guardian revealing that the NSA and UK sister agency GCHQ have undercover agents lurking on the Xbox Live network, World of Warcraft, Second Life and other virtual realms. Why? Because online gaming is big business, and it's possible that terrorists are lurking within those virtual realms, scheming. Infiltrating MMORPGs and other game networks is also a good way to recruit potential informants.

The NSA documents provided to The Guardian were written in 2008, indicating that NSA spies have lurked within these games for around five years. Titled "Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments," one document describes these game communities as a "target-rich communications network" where intelligence targets can "hide in plain sight." In fact, there are so many agents within these games that the NSA set up a "deconfliction" group to make sure the agents weren't spying on each other by accident.

The NSA document argues that if games are properly exploited, vast amounts of knowledge can be obtained. For instance, games could be used to build pictures of people's social networks through "buddylists and interaction," to obtain target identifiers like profile photos, and so on. There's also indication that NSA agents can extract communications from talk channels, participating in voice and video chats on the console networks.

"The documents contain no indication that the surveillance ever foiled any terrorist plots, nor is there any clear evidence that terror groups were using the virtual communities to communicate as the intelligence agencies predicted," The Guardian reports. The Guardian also admits that it's unclear how the agencies accessed the data or how many communications were collected. Even more, it's unclear how the NSA made sure it wasn't monitoring innocent civilians concealed behind their avatars.

When contacted by the Guardian, World of Warcraft developer Blizzard said it was unaware of any surveillance taking place, and if there was, then it was done without Blizzard's knowledge or permission. Microsoft declined to comment on the latest revelations, The Guardian reports, as did Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life and former CEO of Linden Lab, the game's operator. The NSA declined to talk as well.

"All GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee," a GCHQ rep told The Guardian.

At the request of the GCHQ, NSA began extracting World of Warcraft metadata back in 2008, and tried to link accounts, characters and guilds to Islamic extremism and arms dealing efforts. The agencies discovered that telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military and other intelligence agencies were active subscribers. Later on, the UK agency reported that it was successful in acquiring discussions between different game players on Xbox Live.

The NSA drama doesn't stop here. Head over to The Guardian for the full report.

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Top Comments
  • 27 Hide
    xkm1948 , December 9, 2013 2:24 PM
    Next news: NSA has agents spying online porn sites. Terrorists could be watching those porn. NSA got agents watching these porn sites 24x7.
  • 20 Hide
    ringwurm , December 9, 2013 2:06 PM
    Leeroy Jenkins is synonymous with jihad
  • 10 Hide
    vmem , December 9, 2013 2:11 PM
    roflcopter is secret terrorist code for bombing...
Other Comments
    Display all 33 comments.
  • 20 Hide
    ringwurm , December 9, 2013 2:06 PM
    Leeroy Jenkins is synonymous with jihad
  • 10 Hide
    vmem , December 9, 2013 2:11 PM
    roflcopter is secret terrorist code for bombing...
  • 5 Hide
    Stimpack , December 9, 2013 2:15 PM
    Damnit, I was going to make a Leeroy Jenkins reference. I don't have anything else. I'm so out of touch....
  • 27 Hide
    xkm1948 , December 9, 2013 2:24 PM
    Next news: NSA has agents spying online porn sites. Terrorists could be watching those porn. NSA got agents watching these porn sites 24x7.
  • 0 Hide
    jupebobpete , December 9, 2013 2:28 PM
    I don't play anymore but when I did I hardly knew any of my friends in real life
  • 8 Hide
    Mousemonkey , December 9, 2013 2:28 PM
    Quote:
    Next news: NSA has agents spying online porn sites. Terrorists could be watching those porn. NSA got agents watching these porn sites 24x7.


    Now that you mention it.
    http://www.dailytech.com/NSA+Snares+Americans+Porn+Viewing+Histories+in+Effort+to+Target+Muslims/article33833.htm
  • 10 Hide
    Nedrah , December 9, 2013 2:32 PM
    I just realized that the NSA has probably seen my ass.
  • 9 Hide
    bigshootr8 , December 9, 2013 2:50 PM
    And now the answer of why trade chat is full of morons is known.
  • 10 Hide
    ps3hacker12 , December 9, 2013 2:56 PM
    "Daddy daddy, what are you doing as a super cool secret agent today? Shootng bad guys? Driving sport cars? :D  "

    "Oh son, I am going to find terrorists on world of warcraft"

    Seems like a waste of NSA time, money and staff hours IMO.
  • 1 Hide
    Sparky Nesretep , December 9, 2013 3:02 PM
    THEY NEED TO MONITOR BARRENS CHAT IT IS SO INTELLEGENT THEY WILL FIT RIGHT IN
  • 0 Hide
    the1kingbob , December 9, 2013 3:19 PM
    I am a little confused, is The Guardian releasing a new story every week or are they just really slow at going through all the leaks? It is getting to a point that I am questioning if they are just making things up to keep the NSA ball rolling forward or if they are serious....
  • 9 Hide
    punahou1 , December 9, 2013 3:26 PM
    Have fun playing against my kid - while she is a level 85 your not going to get much info out of her.
  • 5 Hide
    icraft , December 9, 2013 3:40 PM
    "But I need to finish this quest to catch him. Looks like overtime!"
  • 0 Hide
    usertests , December 9, 2013 3:45 PM
    Quote:
    I am a little confused, is The Guardian releasing a new story every week or are they just really slow at going through all the leaks? It is getting to a point that I am questioning if they are just making things up to keep the NSA ball rolling forward or if they are serious....


    No they are not making things up. From what Alan Rusbridger has testified to Parliament, they are about halfway through the stories to be published, having published 1% of the documents. And the documents might number around 60,000. The rest could be discarded. Real journalism takes a long time. Compare this to the Cablegate reporting back in 2010, it was a lot more haphazard then.
  • 3 Hide
    FloKid , December 9, 2013 3:51 PM
    Do they get a free subscription?
  • 3 Hide
    ZolaIII , December 9, 2013 3:51 PM
    Hello there mister Smith! Are you filling comfortable in my garbage disposal?

    NSA is terrorizing hole world! If we don't have right on our personal space (privacy) then that's terrorism!
  • 0 Hide
    rwinches , December 9, 2013 4:05 PM
    OK, I could imagine player to player chat being some sort of code. So they would be using the game play to cover communications.

    I can see future marketing for products boasting 'Fully NSA Compliant' with no interference with your day to day operations all reporting and updates use the latest Ghost Torrent standard.
  • 0 Hide
    beoza , December 9, 2013 4:09 PM
    This was all just an excuse to play video games all day at the NSA, claim it's critical to National Security, and get paid for it. This would also explain why Blizzard dumbed the game down so much after TBC.
  • 2 Hide
    Lamontiego , December 9, 2013 4:21 PM
    You can craft bombs in World of Warcraft as a engineer. If you have a engineering profession... welcome to the list.
  • 0 Hide
    Bob Maloogaloogaloogaloogalooga , December 9, 2013 4:30 PM
    Here is an article about the NSA and Jimmy Hoffa and Capt Kangaroo: http://www.tomatoweekly.com/2013/11/how-they-add-up-the-nsa-jimmy-hoffa-a-soviet-sleeper-cell-captain-kangaroo-and-dancing-bear/
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