World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games

Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.

Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.

The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.

via World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games – ProPublica.

2 thoughts on “World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games

  1. Considering how the NSA and CIA were able to steal information from leading companies, such as Google and Microsoft, and were caught, it is not surprising that they are trying their hands with new techniques. What does seem to be interesting is the approach that the NSA and CIA have taken by entering digital societies.

    As a former player of World of Warcraft for about 7 years, I am skeptical towards what sort of information someone could obtain from users in an online game. People are typically goal-oriented in these games, and it is relatively common for people to not want to share their (correct) personal information with strangers.

    Retrieving information may be easy, due to the ability to chat with any player in game, synchronously or asynchronously via mail or message; the most difficult part may be distinguishing valid data for beneficial & worthy information.

  2. As someone who has played online games similar to some of the games listed in the article, it is pretty alarming to see this. It seems like a stretch to believe that “terrorists” are discussing strategical matters and sending over money in an online game. Of course there is always that chance, but it seems incredibly unlikely that this is the case. Even if this was the case, it would be near impossible for the intelligence agencies to actually get any useful information from simply playing the game and trying to find out more information. If a terrorist attack was actually being planned, you would have to think that the terrorists will be smart enough to keep their plans secret to those whom they know they trust. I doubt they will be publicly broadcasting their plans. What I can see reasonable is that the intelligence agencies will go to the game companies and see if they can have access to their chat logs because then they would be able to quickly scan through the logs and look for any key words that stand out to them. Otherwise, I see this as a colossal waste of time and not a viable source of stopping terrorism at all.

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