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

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the for-the-horde dept.

Privacy 293

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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Well, of course. (5, Funny)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#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. (5, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#45640631)

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.

Re:Well, of course. (2)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about a year ago | (#45640679)

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 (5, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45640859)

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:Of course (3, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#45641425)

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 neutral - it can be put to purposes both good or evil. The surgeon's knife can heal or mutilate. When you integrate virtual worlds with the real world in some way, there is the possibility for misconduct in the virtual world to reach into the real world. Simulation and virtual reality are already proven tools to improve real world performance.

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

Re:Of course (2)

rainmouse (1784278) | about a year ago | (#45641471)

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 way to quietly transfer funds from one country to another or launder it. Even just using in game private messages to pass on information.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

Guppy (12314) | about a year ago | (#45640931)

Anybody else recall anything of the like?

Dunno, does Goonswarm count? :)

Re:Well, of course. (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#45640649)

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 even be a disability.

Re:Well, of course. (2)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#45640887)

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.

Re:Well, of course. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#45640671)

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 (4, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#45640973)

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 (5, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#45641167)

> 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.

Re:Rubbish (2)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about a year ago | (#45641453)

There really is only that one answer.

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

Re:Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641513)

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.

That won't be as much of a problem if our education system continues to stagnate.

Re:Rubbish (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#45641517)

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.

Re:Rubbish (1)

jtara (133429) | about a year ago | (#45641039)

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 0700".

Re:Rubbish (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | about a year ago | (#45641107)

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.

Re:Rubbish (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#45641305)

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 really be setting up events outside the game, that the operators would know nothing about.

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

Yes. The point is to find people who are willing to commit such acts, and who would indeed do so if they meet someone who will give them the resources. The agents offer such resources (and yes, even targets) just like an enemy recruiter would. Then, if and only if the "patsy" follows through with the plan are they arrested. The United States has no law against hating the government. There are laws against doing something with that hatred.

Re:Rubbish (2)

phorm (591458) | about a year ago | (#45641587)

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 suspicious than an encrypted VPN or tunnel, etc.

Of course the above would assume that the terrorists were all versed in whatever codes were used. I could picture one guy with a bunch of rifles sitting in a real van waiting while his two buddies are wondering when he's showing up for the raid in WOW :-)

Right, but (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about a year ago | (#45640831)

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.

Red Flags ok. Blue flags: Tell Vile Rat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640999)

Assholes => Shoot Them => Tell Vile Rat

Re:Well, of course. (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#45640947)

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

Re:Well, of course. (0, Redundant)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#45641059)

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?

More like...

"is your elf now or has ever been a member of the bolshevist glorious workers party opposed to trollish bourgeois oppressors?"

Re:Well, of course. (1)

meerling (1487879) | about a year ago | (#45641491)

Not if they are subjected to Barrens chat or Whoreshire.
(If you've played, you know what those are.)

Sir! Sir! It's an emergency, sir! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640593)

We have word that xXxNoScopezN00bKill3rxXx will dip his balls on the President at 21:00!

Re:Sir! Sir! It's an emergency, sir! (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#45641461)

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...

SecondLife?? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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.

More worrying (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45640911)

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.

Everybody calm down!!! (5, Insightful)

jddeluxe (965655) | about a year ago | (#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....

Re:Everybody calm down!!! (2)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about a year ago | (#45640693)

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!

Re:Everybody calm down!!! (4, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#45640905)

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?

Re:Everybody calm down!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641289)

This is a bigger problem than you think. The real issue with NSA overreach is not that it's some faceless govt org that wants to control the world.

It's a scam. Graft. It's thousands of commercial contractors that have figured out a way to fleece the public. They can do whatever they want, charge whatever they want, and completely escape oversight and audit under the cloak of states secrets, secret courts, and national security. Being paid 200 bucks an hour to play WoW on the public's dime is unfortunately probably one of the more harmless examples of what's going on.

Chat logs (2)

phorm (591458) | about a year ago | (#45641595)

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.

Strict protections applied (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640607)

So long as all members of your guild have less than a 51% chance of being foreign they won't play with you.

Clever bastards (5, Insightful)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Clever bastards (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#45640701)

"I knew it! I know who the spy was! I knew there was something funny about that guy on the last raid. He kept saying, 'Leroy Abdullah! Who's with me, bros? Let's go, Leroy Abdullah!"

Re:Clever bastards (1)

OglinTatas (710589) | about a year ago | (#45640711)

"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.

Re:Clever bastards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641057)

"L80 tier 2 rogue LFG bomb embassy"

I don't think that's how it happens

Yeah, you're a few xpacs behind...

Re:Clever bastards (1)

CortxVortx (1457591) | about a year ago | (#45640775)

Now we know that Leroy Jenkins is officially on the no-fly list...

Re:Clever bastards (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640803)

I admire their ingenuity and guile, but question their taste.

Re:Clever bastards (1)

ImOuttaHere (2996813) | about a year ago | (#45640933)

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

Re:Clever bastards (2)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#45641147)

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.

Re:Clever bastards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641329)

I feel sorry for the one's who got assigned to Chatroulette.

WHHEAATTOOOON!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640613)

Sheldon: I donâ(TM)t care! Iâ(TM)m losinâ(TM) it, man!

Leonard: Why donâ(TM)t we play this smart? Try a little good goblin, bad goblin.

Priya: Oh, dear Lord.

Howard: Nah, I think we have to be more subtle.

Raj: Okay, I see where this is going. Fine, Iâ(TM)ll have sex with him.

Leonard: Thatâ(TM)s not where it was going.

Raj: Good, because I would hate that.

The only thing the NSA will find is virginity (2)

readandburn (825014) | about a year ago | (#45640615)

I kid, I kid.

Re:The only thing the NSA will find is virginity (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#45640677)

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] .

Agent Smith (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640627)

"We're not here because we are free. We're here because we are not free. There is no escaping reason. No denying purpose. Because we both know without purpose, we would not exist."

Red pill, blue pill?

Re:Agent Smith (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#45641179)

First thing I thought of when reading the article...they deploy real-life agents into the games? So you'd see some Warcraft orc or SL furry transform into a typical Fed-looking character? Presumably through the use of the Tron scanning laser?

I knew it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640635)

This is why battlefield 4 keeps crashing! Especially right after I attempt to communicate sensitive information with my overseas contact via a sophisticated system of bunny-hopping and helicopter aerobatics.

Re:I knew it! (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#45641013)

Nice!

This Should Surprise No One (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640639)

To be honest, I've long suspected all of this was occuring. Being an IT guy in the industry now for almost two decades, I've worked for some big players and seen things which I have often considered dodgy and outright suspect. I tend to fly under the radar when it comes to an online presence, and, as a consequence, I have no public-facing accounts like Facebook, Twitter, any online storage, etc. Gaming is supposed to be fun -- and perhaps now it's less fun knowing that it's not just MS or Sony watching the chat rooms and interplay that occurs in these venues. I'm not surpirsed, just disappointed that nothing seems to be free of constant surveillance. George Orwell himself would likely be shocked at how impressive the watchful eyes of the state have become and to what breadth and depth they reach. 1984 has become an operators' manual...

thank goodness (5, Funny)

phoenix03 (3348193) | about a year ago | (#45640645)

Now the government will know when Stormwind raids will take place.

Re:thank goodness (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#45640789)

If you're not doing anything wrong, ya got nuthin' to fear, do ya, little orky?"

Great excuse to tell your mum (5, Funny)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about a year ago | (#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... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Pathetic (2)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about a year ago | (#45640761)

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!"?

Re:Pathetic (1)

ImOuttaHere (2996813) | about a year ago | (#45641133)

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!"?

Re:Pathetic (2)

niado (1650369) | about a year ago | (#45641157)

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 these services at a very high level.

If we weren't paying agents to play WoW, we would be paying them to do something else.

Re:Pathetic (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#45641487)

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.

Re: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641571)

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.

You're seeing Celine's first law [wikipedia.org] in action. Specifically:-

Reflecting the paranoia of the Cold War, Celine's First Law focuses around the common idea that to have national security, one must create a secret police. Since internal revolutionaries and external foes would make the secret police a prime target for infiltration, and because the secret police would by necessity have vast powers to blackmail and intimidate other members of the government, another higher set of secret police must be created to monitor the secret police. And an even higher set of secret police must then be created to monitor the higher order of secret police. Repeat ad nauseam.

This seemingly infinite regress goes on until every person in the country is spying on another, or "the funding runs out." And since this paranoid and self monitoring situation inherently makes targets of a nation's own citizens, the average person in the nation is more threatened by the massive secret police complex than by whatever foe they were seeking to protect themselves from. Wilson points out that the Soviet Union, which suffered from this in spades, got to the point that it was terrified of painters and poets who could do little harm to them in reality.

With manual processes, the Stasi had about 10% of the population reporting on the remainder. With server farms and big data analytics, we're way past that stage.

Well now, maybe the ears will perk up a bit (1)

Catbeller (118204) | about a year ago | (#45640705)

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?

No sign of them seeking informants in Second Life (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640731)

There are a few people who collect info within second life and publish it. I'm one of them. I have, in the past, gathered information on how the platform is used, socially, and where people are hanging out and what they're doing. It requires a lot of human effort to suss out the human activity from the automated activity in Second Life, because there is a lot of the latter designed to simulate the former. I've been very vocal about my findings, but nobody has approached me for sharing info or to discuss methodology. They'd be able to tell from my writing that I'm not paranoid about authority, as most people still in SL and talking about it seem to be.

In short, if they were looking for informants in Second Life, I'm an obvious candidate. But they haven't approached me.

Re:No sign of them seeking informants in Second Li (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640839)

Nobody said they were doing everything they were doing competently.

Re:No sign of them seeking informants in Second Li (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641151)

We've no need to formally contact you, since your computer is already an open book to us. Thank you, and keep up the good work, Mr. Coward.

Captcha: repress

Re:No sign of them seeking informants in Second Li (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641201)

Of course they don't monitor Second Life. If you are going to kill yourself as a suicide bomber you have to have a life to begin with.

Best thing I've heard in years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640739)

At least as far as the NSA is concerned. In fact I'd be happy if they spent all their resources on virtual worlds.

This has been going on for years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640749)

This has been going on for years: When I still worked at the NSA (beginning of the nineties), I also used to pla... monitor all these Solitary games.

Too far (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640755)

Oh, now they've gone too far. We've sat around and impotently whined on internet forums when the Snowden files came out. We sat around and impotently whined on internet forums when we learned the NSA infiltrated communications on the internet (OUR precious internet*!) at the backbone level. We sat around and impotently whined on internet forums when we learned the NSA was spying on our phone calls. We sat around and impotently whined on internet forums when we learned the NSA hacked into Google's encrypted intra-datacenter communications.

But NOW they're spying on OUR VIDEO GAMES! Oh, man. Ohhhh, man. They're gonna regret that. This shit just got REAL now. That's it. It's time, my internet brothers and sisters. We have to unleash the FULL power we all have as Citizens of the Internet. Unleash the revolution NOW! You heard me, NSA! We're gonna sit around and impotently whine REALLY REALLY LOUDLY on internet forums now!

*: Which was made by the government.

NSA recruits Linden Lab and Facebook connection (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#45640779)

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’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., in May 2007 to speak to staff members over a brown bag lunch, according to an internal agency announcement. “Second Life has proven that virtual worlds of social networking are a reality: come hear Cory tell you why!” said the announcement. It added that virtual worlds gave the government the opportunity “to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil.”

Mr. Ondrejka, now the director of mobile engineering at Facebook, said through a representative that the N.S.A. presentation was similar to others he gave in that period, and declined to comment further.

Mixed Feelings About This (1)

jsm18 (1317959) | about a year ago | (#45640791)

If they are watching, I hope they are impressed by my Firefighter achievement.

That explains everything (1)

Todd.Stedel (2817961) | about a year ago | (#45640835)

Well, that would explain all the crappy healers/tanks who go AFK and wipe the party... right?

Absurdity (2)

Phoenix666 (184391) | about a year ago | (#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.

Not completely surprising (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45640895)

I have to admit I've thought along similar lines. I play an old, outdated, unpopular but still surviving multiplayer game. Not many people on there but enough for some fun.

Anyway, the game has a chat function built in, and it's crossed my mind in the past that chatting through that game could be an effective way to communicate under the radar. Security by obscurity thru FPSs.

So I'm not flabbergasted that they spy on WoW. It's still depressing, though, that they have both the compulsion and the means to tap virtually every form of electronic communications. I'd be a lot less pissed if they were selective about it instead of behaving like mentally ill hoarders.

You mean like in Tron? (1)

Qubit (100461) | about a year ago | (#45640921)

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

...or more like the Matrix?

Meh, no surprise (4, Interesting)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#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.

Job (2)

Andrew Osiris (2826645) | about a year ago | (#45640961)

will spy for epic lootz...

Best anti-terrorism move ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641003)

They should have recruited the terrorists to join WoW clans. Once WoW sucked up their life, they wouldn't be able to stop raiding long enough to...you know...perform acts of Terrorism.

Eventually, they could meet those with terrorist proclivities a bit more easily in the support groups.

http://wowaholics.org/content/wow-ruined-my-life

False positive gallery (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#45641063)

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.

Re:False positive gallery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641213)

And the reason there are thousands of names on the no fly list is because thousands of people blew stuff up after 9/11, right?

What the hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641091)

Why is the only the HORDE being targeted. Those Alliance are shifty characters too.

Re:What the hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641139)

Most Alliance are repeatedly clicking the "Release" button to be of importance...

WTB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641111)

gif of an orc in fedora, trenchcoat and sunglasses.

Good (1)

JockTroll (996521) | about a year ago | (#45641143)

Let's PK the fuckers and loot them. Nothing like getting away with some rare items pilfered from the corpse of a NSA spook. I wish TSA agents would play online FPS, so we could teabag their freshly-killed corpses. Wanna see my pack, punk? Suck on it while you bleed to death from the shockrifle-induced ragged hole in your lower belly.

It All Makes Sense Now (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a year ago | (#45641165)

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!

Leroy Jenkins ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641183)

That explains a lot:

NSA Guy !: "Dude, you can't do that, you need a warrent !
NSA Guy 2: "Screw that, their data is mine ... Leroy Jenkins ...!!!!!!"

Re:Leroy Jenkins ! (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#45641495)

NSA Guy 3: "Dammit Leroy!"

Most recently came across this in GTAV:Online (1)

dave562 (969951) | about a year ago | (#45641221)

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 a jihadist looking to communicate with agents in the States, a game like WoW is a good candidate to use due to its world wide appeal. Though I would think that some of those Korean MMOs might be even better, given the sheer volume of them, and the fact that their servers are not in the States.

Re:Most recently came across this in GTAV:Online (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | about a year ago | (#45641409)

And I'm sure they'd be talking plain words and in open chat....

Re:Most recently came across this in GTAV:Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641557)

The NSA operatives would... this is pathetic.

I'd love to be in the NSA briefings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641251)

Jenson, give me your report.

"Well sir, I discovered that Silverflame28 is a total noob, and I helped axeman2485 and a few friends on a raid in the nearby dungeon. He's a pretty nice guy; sounds like he's from Australia."

Jenson, you've made the country a safer place. Sleep well, son.

Real Story- workers like to goof off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641285)

Many at the NSA and similar agencies see the job as a joke. Like most ordinary people, they want to 'enjoy' work, so persuading gullible bosses that gaming all day serves a useful purpose seems like the greatest wheeze in the world.

The the snowball effect kicks in. The parasitical scum that live to promote 'intelligence' agendas start to promote such goofing off as essential security work, cos of all those nasty 'terrorists' and 'extremists' who are hiding in public game space, sharing all their nefarious plans and ideologies. Americans, in particular are so thick and so vicious, they love a 'reds under our beds' scare, and will always empower the forces in government exploiting such nonsense.

So, what started as an excellent work place wheeze to make the day pass more quickly ends up, through laughable propaganda from the state supporting paranoia preachers, as essential intelligence work. It is this pathetic incompetence that Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, and those that run full surveillance corporations like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter, wish to reverse.

Historically, unaccountable intelligence bodies always have ever inflating budgets, and a never ending appetite for power. However, the true 'usefulness' of such operations (in providing lasting power services to the elites) is frequently missing- or worse counter-productive as the Intelligence heads engage in empire building at the cost of the political stability of their masters.

The dilemma is this. Bill Gates and Tony Blair, etc, need intelligence operatives to be depraved and immoral, so no command will be refused, but the same lack of moral fibre makes such workers corrupt, lazy and incompetent. This is why Gates, Blair etc focus on us and our attitudes. Get the sheeple to expect and tolerate a massively intrusive surveillance society, and you reduce the 'guilt' felt by many intelligence workers.

However, Blair in particular finds 'scare' stories like "terrorists hiding in online games" very useful indeed. Tony Blair is old-school, and works on the principle of "get group A to hate/fear/distrust Group B because of their differences". So 'gamers' must be a troubling group to non-gamers in Blair's system.

Tin Foil Hat (1, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year ago | (#45641293)

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.

Good god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641399)

Are all the real problems in Amerika fixed so we have money to waste on this crap?
They've already destroyed Amerika with this kind of unlimited and unwarranted spying...
Dismantle the NSA already, this is just insane at this point.

I knew it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641455)

Ralph Pootawn had to be an NSA troll.

Who believes all of this Snowden stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641507)

As a career networking guy and technologist, I don't buy half of this Snowden leak info. Who is actually vetting what is being declared by this guy? All of the media outlets accept this guy's word as gospel when, in fact, half of it doesn't pass muster.

SpyParty game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641523)

wait till SpyParty goes Gold.

http://spyparty.com/ [spyparty.com]

and to prevent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45641563)

And to prevent any accusations of 'profiling', any conversations in middle eastern languages were automatically filtered out and deleted...

I wonder how they try to parse some of the online wargames where they regularly talk of all kinds of modern weapon stuff and blowing up/bombing thigs constantly... Or do they just look for christian oriented vocabulary in that case??

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