NSA Spies On MMOs Says Snowden Reveal

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NSA Spies On MMOs Says Snowden Reveal

I'm sorry, is this serious business or a remake of Spies Like Us? I've lost track.

"We are unaware of any surveillance taking place," says Blizzard. "If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission." But whether Blizzard knew it or not, according to documents from the NSA - published by the Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica as part of the Snowden exposť - that's exactly what the world's spy agencies have been doing since 2008. World of Warcraft, Xbox Live, Second Life, are all known to have been targeted by the world's intelligence agencies. After all, as an NSA document announced in 2008, virtual games "are an opportunity!"

In fact, so great was the opportunity that CIA, FBI and Pentagon spooks found to their dismay that they were chasing each other around Second Life, and had to set up a networking group so they could tell the spies from the normals. Meanwhile the UK's GCHQ was busy looking at the World of Warcraft accounts of embassy employees, scientists and other important people, including intelligence operatives of other nations. Perhaps, thought GCHQ, these orcs and night elves could be turned, and used as intelligence assets; George Smiley meets Garrosh Hellscream.

The chat features of online gaming really got the intelligence agencies steamed. There was a chance, the spies believed, that enemies could use chat to transmit secret messages, perhaps arranging a terror attack using code words like 'fireball'. Or perhaps the cash economies would be used to transmit funds.

Don't worry, it's not just the national security agencies who are spying on you. Specialist outside contractors are hawking their services to the governments of the world. Science Applications International Corporation, aka SAIC, says it can provide "intelligence collection in the game space," and both SAIC and Lockheed Martin have been awarded million-dollar contracts to work on means of spying on MMO gamers.

Occasionally the surveillance reaped dividends. GCHQ used Second Life to collect information for Operation Galician, which resulted in the elimination of a London crime ring that sold stolen credit card information within virtual worlds. However there seems to be little indication, from the documents revealed so far, that all this effort resulted in anything substantial. Even when persons of interest were detected playing online games, there seems to have been no evidence that their game habits were linked to any more serious activity.

Sources: ProPublica, The Guardian, The New York Times

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This sounds like a gigantic waste of time and money.

So in other words, government spying as usual.

EDIT:

The New York Times:
"If they ever read these forums," wrote a goblin priest with the user name "Diaya," "they would realize they were wasting their time."

No wonder it took awhile for this story to come out, Blizzards avatar naming policy would restrict DeepThroat.

Phrozenflame500:
This sounds like a gigantic waste of time and money.

So in other words, government spying as usual.

Don'tcha just love all the mooks that are in charge of spending our tax money? It's almost like they don't even care about the cost since it's not really their money to begin with!

Oh wait...

I was involved in planting an IED and blowing up a bridge, once. It was a lovely RP event, but I hope those chatlogs won't come back to haunt me later.

*Head desk* Why are so many people in my government so stupid? Hey, here's a damn question, how many terrorists have they caught?

NSA: Oh man, we found Vladimir Putin's avatar on WOW, quick, join his guild so we can spy on him!

Vladimir Putin: Haha! Those foolish NSA spies have joined my guild! Time to troll the political crap out of them... KGB style!

... Not quite as bad as phone-tapping and spying on foreign diplomats, but still not okay I suppose.

I kinda wish I knew what was going on in the heads of people giving out these orders. This kind of shit is pretty plainly, cut-and-dry morally wrong, and even the Founding Fathers that the patriot-types like to quote flat out said freedom trumps security. So, is there some kind of ancillary reason they're doing all this Master Mind, Big Brother shit? Just trying to justify their budget, or what?

Good to see Snowden's still kickin' around, also. I hadn't heard about him in a while, and I was starting to worry he'd been blackbagged.

I can imagine some poor fresh NSA desk spy on Eve Online tracking down a foreign national, spending months upon months of in game cash and time to get on their good side.

then fucking GoonSwarm flies in, kills everyone, person blames the poor NSA sod, and nearly a year is wasted.

Are they actually spying or did someone just tell their boss that so that they can level up their paladin at work? It's the kind of thing I'd do.

'Al Qaeda are sending messages via Team Fortress 2, it's a tough job but I volunteer for the assignment. We should probably hack the Valve computers for information about a secret terrorist plot called 'half life 3' whilst we're at it.'

I can just see some NSA spy getting outted as a spy due to some alliance in eve online and their anti-spy counter measures.

Oh no! Now they'll know who's a N00B and who's 1337! Seriously, I think this was just someone's excuse to play WoW at work.

erttheking:
*Head desk* Why are so many people in my government so stupid? Hey, here's a damn question, how many terrorists have they caught?

In general or through spying in MMOs? I don't know the latter, probably none. But they do catch real terrorists now and then. Since no attack takes place in these events, the media isn't that interested in it, and thus the general population doesn't know or care to know about it either.

CriticalMiss:
Are they actually spying or did someone just tell their boss that so that they can level up their paladin at work? It's the kind of thing I'd do.

'Al Qaeda are sending messages via Team Fortress 2, it's a tough job but I volunteer for the assignment. We should probably hack the Valve computers for information about a secret terrorist plot called 'half life 3' whilst we're at it.'

No no no, you aren't taking it far enough: "Boss, Al Qaeda are using WoW to send secret messages. You must buy me Mists of Pandaria and a full year of subscription. Also, I heard they might be using Hearthstone for the same thing, so you must acquire a Beta key... no, wait, make that 2 keys - Bob in Accounting says he can help. Finally, in order to stay one step ahead of those terrorist bastards, you should secure access to closed betas of games such as Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar, just so we can lay the groundwork for our intelligence gathering in advance."

Doesn't seem that crazy to me. In the book Daemon by Daniel Suarez, the national security agencies point out that there are millions of communications sent through MMOs every day, between people with multiple accounts, and that what little security exists is focused on stopping gold farming and exploits. It would be easy to have entire conversations with people with very little risk of others finding out what was said or who those people were.

Then again, this book also has an evil computer program that takes over the world, so it might not be the best source for information.

Well, this made my day. Knowing that the worlds superpowers have nothing better to do than spy on mine and my compatriots increasingly insane arguments on PvP MMO balance.

Excludos:

erttheking:
*Head desk* Why are so many people in my government so stupid? Hey, here's a damn question, how many terrorists have they caught?

In general or through spying in MMOs? I don't know the latter, probably none. But they do catch real terrorists now and then. Since no attack takes place in these events, the media isn't that interested in it, and thus the general population doesn't know or care to know about it either.

I feel like the amount of terrorists that they catch isn't enough of a result to justify the extreme measures that they take. I mean, when was the last time there actually was an attack on American soil by a terrorist organization? I'm more scared of other Americans trying to kill me than some religious nutjobs.

well i hope the mooks getting told to do this have good mental health insurance...because chat in an average MMO is...not..er...well it's...lemme put it this way: you'd have to pay me a hell of a lot...and give me lengthy breaks...before i'd even consider sitting and religiously reading it...

It's true.
Everytime I log into World of Warcraft, I plot the murder of hundreds in the hopes of getting a bit of money and goods. I'm in a ring of likeminded people and we coordinate our attacks to get stronger, more resources and better equipment.
We use advanced tactics that need delicate timing and movement.

This of course all carries over to real life and has made us one of the most powerful organizations in history, capable of taking on entire nations.

You too can join our ranks in our fight for independance; You only have to live by our motto:
Don't stand in the fire.

Smilomaniac:
It's true.
Everytime I log into World of Warcraft, I plot the murder of hundreds in the hopes of getting a bit of money and goods. I'm in a ring of likeminded people and we coordinate our attacks to get stronger, more resources and better equipment.
We use advanced tactics that need delicate timing and movement.

This of course all carries over to real life and has made us one of the most powerful organizations in history, capable of taking on entire nations.

You too can join our ranks in our fight for independance; You only have to live by our motto:
Don't stand in the fire.

Lok'tar ogar Commrades.

for some reason that phrase lept into my head and made me burst out laughing...although in my head it was in stereotypical Russian accent and being said by an Orc in a fur hat and thus better :\

Spy: Okay so where's Putin's orc?

Beggar: Got gold? I need gold.

Spy: What?

Beggar: 1 gold please?

Spy: No I don't have gold! Go away!

Beggar: But I need gold...

Spy: Shut up I need to spy on Putin! Shit! I just said that out loud! You didn't see nothing...

Beggar: Gold???.....

Jamieson 90:
Spy: Okay so where's Putin's orc?

Beggar: Got gold? I need gold.

Spy: What?

Beggar: 1 gold please?

Spy: No I don't have gold! Go away!

Beggar: But I need gold...

Spy: Shut up I need to spy on Putin! Shit! I just said that out loud! You didn't see nothing...

Beggar: Gold???.....

i truly dread to think what the governments deductions might possibly be from playing WoW...

"where can i mine for fish ?"

...

Well that's just silly.

I mean WoW... Whoever approved of this initiative is probably a bit of a Dofus.
I guess they think these Secret Worlds are a perfect place for terrorists to plot and scheme.
Maybe they think it's absolute Anarchy Online and they want to keep an eye on it? But it will probably just serve widen the Rift between the government and the people.
But perhaps we should be happy to have these Champions Online to protect us from evil, if there are any threats online they'll know the full Fury of the government. I mean these guys just want to protect the Soul of the Ultimate Nation.
Who knows? They might uncover a whole City of Villains!
Or maybe this is a sign that there are Dark Ages ahead...
But honestly though this seems like a bit of a Dead Frontier as I don't think terrorists are actually hiding in these games. But even so they are venturing into a World of Darkness what with all the creeps and general idiots online.
But I guess they get a lot of time on their hands to become very good Dungeon Runners.

Seriously though, I'd Love for this to be fake. Sometimes I think they want to control everyone on this Earth & Beyond, I guess in a Perfect World there would be no suspicion.
Perhaps this truly is the Face of Mankind... Will this really be our Lineage?

Sleekit:

Jamieson 90:
Spy: Okay so where's Putin's orc?

Beggar: Got gold? I need gold.

Spy: What?

Beggar: 1 gold please?

Spy: No I don't have gold! Go away!

Beggar: But I need gold...

Spy: Shut up I need to spy on Putin! Shit! I just said that out loud! You didn't see nothing...

Beggar: Gold???.....

i truly dread to think what the governments deductions might possibly be from playing WoW...

"where can i mine for fish ?"

...

I know or "Where can I learn how to use guns?"

This could be so funny if I couldn't imagine SO WELL that whoever initiated this actually considered ingame-chat as a real potential threat to "national security" and would be ready, even now, to defend those actions as vital and "essential in stopping at least x terroristic attacks, whom we cannot discuss in public at this point".

Yeah, it'd be amusing if this was just someone trying to make up an excuse for playing at work but I'm almost ready to bet that they were, sadly, being serious when starting this.

*sigh*

...Lockheed Martin have been awarded million-dollar contracts to work on means of spying on MMO gamers.

Weren't Lockheed Martin also given the contract to conduct the official Census?

I suppose it makes spying easier if everyone is required to give you their information.

What? Do they think terrorists play WoW in their spare time? What would be their guild name? Get Rid Of Slimy InfidelS?

Jamieson 90:
I know or "Where can I learn how to use guns?"

i'm imagining lots of Goblin engineers getting stalked now...

canadamus_prime:
What? Do they think terrorists play WoW in their spare time? What would be their guild name? Get Rid Of Slimy InfidelS?

thing is once this story breaks some WoW players will troll the shit out it,

give it 6 months and "9/11 raiders for Allah" or "the fabulous Blood Elf jihadis" will probably be a top 10 raiding guild on Magtheridon or something.

The real amusing twist is to imagine that this is exactly what is happening.

"Michael, what are you doing?!"
"I'm leveling my undead mage until Jack gets on."
"Oh, you're playing an undead mage? Want to raid the newest dungeon?"
"Sure, but let's not forget our overall plan to overthrow the government."
"WoW sure is addictive..."

That or it's equally funny to think that there is this entire group of gamers in the CIA who've completely scammed their bosses into paying for their subscriptions.

The U.S is cutting down on many essential agencies, yet they're keeping these branches of the NSA open? What are they thinking?

EDIT; Or it's one of the best scams to get the government to pay for WoW subscriptions.

Karloff:

The chat features of online gaming really got the intelligence agencies steamed. There was a chance, the spies believed, that enemies could use chat to transmit secret messages, perhaps arranging a terror attack using code words like 'fireball'. Or perhaps the cash economies would be used to transmit funds.

Here's a thought:

Instead of collecting zettabytes of useless data in violation of the 4th Amendment the NSA instead uses warrants to collect and/or monitor relevant chat-logs and transaction histories when they have an actual reason to suspect these things are happening.

Honestly if they're already spying on every damned little thing then putting their all encompassing data mining to work on MMO's isn't really surprising.

Mcoffey:
... Not quite as bad as phone-tapping and spying on foreign diplomats, but still not okay I suppose.

I kinda wish I knew what was going on in the heads of people giving out these orders.

They want to digest, process and monitor information. Any and all information. If there is a communications channel they aren't monitoring, they will monitor it.

I would bet $1000 this forum is logged in an NSA database and monitored. You can count on it.

People just don't seem to realize the scope of the NSA. It's gigantic and it's sole purpose in the last 15 years has been to suck in any and all data it possibly can. It's safe to assume their goal is to monitor any and all communications everywhere in the world at all times. Americans like to point at China as a government gone mad with power. China's intelligence collection pales in comparison to what the Americans do every second of every day.

I feel sorry for the poor bastard who had to listen in on Goldshire chat.

Weaver:

Mcoffey:
... Not quite as bad as phone-tapping and spying on foreign diplomats, but still not okay I suppose.

I kinda wish I knew what was going on in the heads of people giving out these orders.

They want to digest, process and monitor information. Any and all information. If there is a communications channel they aren't monitoring, they will monitor it.

I would bet $1000 this forum is logged in an NSA database and monitored. You can count on it.

People just don't seem to realize the scope of the NSA. It's gigantic and it's sole purpose in the last 15 years has been to suck in any and all data it possibly can. It's safe to assume their goal is to monitor any and all communications everywhere in the world at all times. Americans like to point at China as a government gone mad with power. China's intelligence collection pales in comparison to what the Americans do every second of every day.

Well, yeah, I know what their goals are. I question the motivation behind it. Our media, at least in America, pretty much constantly beats you over the head with the "Freedom trumps security" message, and 1984 is required reading in most high schools. How did these guys miss that message their entire lives? Like, it's hilariously obvious for us that they're looking fairly evil right now. How is it not obvious for whoever decided this was a good idea?

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