Government agents reportedly spied on World of Warcraft and Xbox Live gamers

By on December 9, 2013, 10:44 AM
fbi, world, warcraft, xbox live, government, world of warcraft, cia, gchq, snowden, government agents

According to leaked Snowden documents, American and British intelligence agents have virtually infiltrated World of Warcraft and Second Life. Based on reports from The Guardian and The New York Times, documents dating back to 2008 point at agents creating anonymous characters inside of both game worlds in order to keep tabs on fake gamers.

Apparently the reasoning is that nefarious individuals and even those involved in possible terrorist activities could be using the anonymity of these MMOs to secretly communicate, plan attacks and even transfer funds. The documents specifically outline FBI and CIA agents actively "infiltrating" Second Life with something called a "deconfliction" group put in place, in order for the agents to know who their fellow virtual spies were.

In addition to the WoW and Second Life spying, these group also used the UK's GCHQ's open-source packet-sniffing software to keep an eye on communications over these networks. According to the leaked documents, these logs have since been "forwarded to GCHQ for additional analysis, target development, and network knowledge enrichment."

The documents go on to say that the GCHQ has discovered possible signal intercept operations by "identifying accounts, characters, and guilds related to Islamic extremist groups, nuclear proliferation, and arms dealing." Beyond that, it looks as though Xbox Live gamers have also been spied on, both the NYTimes and The Guardian report that a GCHQ document claims that agents have successfully intercepted "discussions between different game players on Xbox Live."

It is important to note that the documents at hand are five years old, so it is unclear how deep government agencies are still involved in these gaming networks. Apparently the agencies have been very aware of the boom in mobile gaming since before Apple's App Store made its debut as well, so its likely the mobile space has become a target since then.




User Comments: 26

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H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Ghostcrawler (Greg Street) was actually spying for the NSA, hence the sudden leave when this came up *sarcasm*

1 person liked this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

Why spy on something that has no life? You can't kill it anyway...

The South Park's portrayal of the game says it all...

Guest said:

It makes sense. But, it is illegal to spy on American citizens heh.

spencer spencer said:

Funny, I just saw that on infowars and was going to post it in the forums. I thought long before snowdens revelations we were being spied on; but in game I wouldn't of even believed that.I certainly hope the feds didn't used to watch me play xbox

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

All the wonderful things that they must have recorded from Trade chat! lol!

Guest said:

Guest said:

It makes sense. But, it is illegal to spy on American citizens heh.

No it's not. heh.

I don't know why everyone is crying of this. Are you doing anything wrong...no? Then they're not coming after you. The whole point is to catch those who want to do harm to others in the act, and a "Smart" thing to do for some of them is to communicate through video games. I'd be more worried if our government wasn't keeping tabs on all of us!

hitech0101 said:

Were they spying to enhance their own profiles in these games?

Vikash Tirkey said:

NSA must be really frightened by the spells in Warcraft and how much damage it can do.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I wonder if they actually found anything, like anything at all to do with terrorist groups and organized crime syndicates. If it was my money I bet they found nothing.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

I was wondering who those night elves in black suits were.

insect said:

Why spy on something that has no life? You can't kill it anyway...

The South Park's portrayal of the game says it all...

Starting to think you're a non-guest troll.

Anyway, with millions of players, hundreds of servers, innumerable chat channels, etc. they should only catch the stupid ones.

Even so, they do have a good point about the money laundering. If I trade buy gold, trade that in-game, and then they sell it after the trade it makes for a partially anonymous trading scheme (because we know no one lies on their gamer profiles about who they are...).

1 person liked this | MilwaukeeMike said:

I wonder if they actually found anything, like anything at all to do with terrorist groups and organized crime syndicates. If it was my money I bet they found nothing.

This story reads very close to the one on TechCrunch (http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/09/nsa-spying-world-of-warcra
t-xbox-live/), who also based the story on the NYT article with one major exception. The TechCrunch story did say whether they found anything and the answer was basically 'no'. Turns out the spies ended up finding each other more than anything else since they seemed to be the only ones talking about terrorist on those games. They realized that coded terrorist talk is pretty much indistinguishable from gamer l33t-speak if they want it to be .

The TechCrunch story also pointed out that the NSA concentrated on Islamic groups who had known ties to terrorism and also had WoW or 2nd LIfe accounts.

yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I did use to wonder whether anyone was keeping an eye on in game chat. All the tapping of mobiles etc, what was to stop people meeting in mmo party chat to discuss nefarious deeds. I'm glad the government is at least considering people might do that.

dennis777 dennis777 said:

So basically they are the one that causing LAG. hehe

their theory is plausible but hard to detect since a gaming world has a different language in a sense.

"We raid Icecrown" = "We bomb (place country here)"

spencer spencer said:

Guest said:

It makes sense. But, it is illegal to spy on American citizens heh.

No it's not. heh.

I don't know why everyone is crying of this. Are you doing anything wrong...no? Then they're not coming after you. The whole point is to catch those who want to do harm to others in the act, and a "Smart" thing to do for some of them is to communicate through video games. I'd be more worried if our government wasn't keeping tabs on all of us!

all right here I go AGIAN stating why it's a big deal. Here in America we are innocent until proven guilty and supplied with the constitution to protect ourselves from tyrants. The 4th Amendment was put there for a reason so for 1 it's unconstitutional stupid a GIANT waste of money and is just another way the "novus ordo seclorum" is using to take power.

spencer spencer said:

Guest said:

It makes sense. But, it is illegal to spy on American citizens heh.

No it's not. heh.

I don't know why everyone is crying of this. Are you doing anything wrong...no? Then they're not coming after you. The whole point is to catch those who want to do harm to others in the act, and a "Smart" thing to do for some of them is to communicate through video games. I'd be more worried if our government wasn't keeping tabs on all of us!

After careful review I have to say this; eat all the GMOS possible drink all the soda you like chew all the gum you want and lastly get some vaccines. It will make a positive impact on the world, also I suspect your trolling.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

I can see it already. Some user ganks some NSA spook in PvP, finds himself locked up the next day. That said, I wonder how many NSA spooks play Eve Online. It seems to me that the agency's apparent unlimited access to communications data would be of particular utility to an ambitious Eve enthusiast.

Guest said:

It makes sense. But, it is illegal to spy on American citizens heh.

No it's not. heh.

I don't know why everyone is crying of this. Are you doing anything wrong...no? Then they're not coming after you. The whole point is to catch those who want to do harm to others in the act, and a "Smart" thing to do for some of them is to communicate through video games. I'd be more worried if our government wasn't keeping tabs on all of us!

all right here I go AGIAN stating why it's a big deal. Here in America we are innocent until proven guilty and supplied with the constitution to protect ourselves from tyrants. The 4th Amendment was put there for a reason so for 1 it's unconstitutional stupid a GIANT waste of money and is just another way the "novus ordo seclorum" is using to take power.

You do realize that these "if you aren't doing anything wrong . . ." types have neither the education nor the capacity to understand your position, right? It's like trying to tell someone that there are crocodiles under the water but they insist that they can't see any, thus it's not a "concern." Sometimes, you just have to let people get eaten for them to see the light.

Guest said:
spencer spencer said:

I can see it already. Some user ganks some NSA spook in PvP, finds himself locked up the next day. That said, I wonder how many NSA spooks play Eve Online. It seems to me that the agency's apparent unlimited access to communications data would be of particular utility to an ambitious Eve enthusiast.

You do realize that these "if you aren't doing anything wrong . . ." types have neither the education nor the capacity to understand your position, right? It's like trying to tell someone that there are crocodiles under the water but they insist that they can't see any, thus it's not a "concern." Sometimes, you just have to let people get eaten for them to see the light.

I feel I must do all I can to help these types, I have realized some aren't able or simply can't see the light like the allegory of the cave.

Guest said:

Can't believe my comment was deleted?

*nerd*

mailpup mailpup said:

Guest, your comment was not deleted. It was merely held in abeyance by the forum filter until I cleared it.

1 person liked this | davislane1 davislane1 said:

You do realize that you have no idea what that person's level of education is. . .

I have no idea what level of education any person has unless they (or someone else) tell me. This is true. I can, however, readily determine the quality of education somebody has on a particular subject by the content of their posts. When I say someone lacks education, I am speaking qualitatively and within the context of the discussion.

. . .nor do you seem to have the capacity to acknowledge an opinion on the matter, not a position. . .

So we're to conclude that 'opinions' and 'positions' are independent of one another? that they're two different things? Following this logic, a person can be of the opinion that God exists and, at the very same time, be a philosophic nihilist (a "position" . I concede that you've got me here, as I have no idea how this statement makes any sense.

The fact is that they will spend the money regardless of what you have to say on an internet conversation.

....What?

If you think the 4th Amendment is being abused then you're obviously just as much as one of those "types" that you mentioned in your post.

The "type" I mentioned in my original post is any person who does the following:

1. Uses a false premise to argue that a constitutional right isn't being violated.

2. Suggests that the potential (or actual) violation of a constitutional right shouldn't be of concern to a law-abiding citizen.

By definition, I can't be the type of person that I mentioned in my post. You, however, did both of these things:

"No it's not. heh.

I don't know why everyone is crying of this. Are you doing anything wrong...no? Then they're not coming after you. The whole point is to catch those who want to do harm to others in the act, and a "Smart" thing to do for some of them is to communicate through video games. I'd be more worried if our government wasn't keeping tabs on all of us!"

I've placed extra emphasis on the last sentence because I'm impressed with the audacity of both the thought itself and how flawlessly you've fallen on your own sword. You not only express your relief at the idea of the USG ignoring the 4th Amendment in the original post, you additionally rebut my attack by saying the law isn't being ignored after suggesting that it is and should be!

You want to try again?

2 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@spencer @davislane1, I may not have the words to say but I have your back. Go get'em!

We were given a Constitution for a reason, and to keep the Constitution in check, the people will need to keep it in check.

The very first thing written in the Constitution

The Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

  • Please note the bold text is referring to the people as being the government. So when may I ask did we segregate?
  • Please note the text underlined. When did "secure the Blessings of Liberty" interpret to being under surveillance, because everyone is suspect which nullifies their Liberty?
learninmypc learninmypc said:

CBS This morning had a "funny" video on this

treetops treetops said:

They would be stupid not too, its a easy way for a terrorist organization to communicate. If I was a terrorist I would use the millions of free to play games to small to monitor.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If I were a terrorist, I'd have the funds to operate. If not I would never take the risk.

  1. Don't use tools designed by someone you don't know to communicate
  2. Use encryption and make it evident how many are logged in listening

I'm not a terrorist but if I were, I damn sure wouldn't be using tools with risk. The NSA are wasting our tax money because they can. And they are using BS excuses, to keep from telling us the whole truth.

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