Facepalm: Have you heard of the combat tank video game War Thunder? Well, the defense intelligence agencies of several countries have, and not because of the game's realistic depiction of real-world armored combat vehicles. No. Apparently, the War Thunder forums have gotten out of hand to the point that users have leaked classified military secrets on multiple occasions.
Note: Although Gaijin has deleted all classified material mentioned in this article, much of it has been reproduced on other parts of the internet. TechSpot will not directly link to any of this information for obvious reasons, but some links to past coverage may lead to more specific documentation.
The first time someone leaked classified documents on War Thunder forums was in July 2021. The incident involved two fans arguing about the game's depiction of Britain's Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. One user posted scans of portions of the tank's Army Equipment Support Publication to prove his point.
Game developer Gaijin then received a letter from Britain's Ministry of Defense that said the posted documents were still classified. Gaijin removed the posts and warned the user.
"By continuing to disseminate [those documents] you are in violation of the Official Secrets Act as stated by the warning on the cover of the document, an offense which can carry up to a 14-year prison sentence if prosecuted. Of this, you are already aware, as a service person, you have signed a declaration that you understand the act and what actions it compels you to take."
One would think that that incident would be enough to make others think twice about doing something similar, but no. Common sense is a commodity these days, and only three months later, another pissing contest broke out between two players that thought they knew everything about France's Leclerc Main Battle Tank.
Once again, one of the users proved himself to be the authority by posting the tank's manual. It was confirmed that the person disseminating the documents was a crew member of a newer model of the Leclerc. Of course, Gaijin removed his posts immediately with a similar warning. Oh, but it didn't end there.
Earlier this week, a user on Gaijin's forums posted information asking the developer to change some of the stats for one of the Chinese tanks in the game. To prove his numbers were accurate, he posted an image of the ballistics schematic for a DTC10-125 tungsten penetrator, with a piece of that armament placed on top of the diagram. In this case, the information was further propagated through Reddit and Twitter, even going so far as to have Chinese speakers translate the document into English.
A Chinese MBT crew member may have just leaked (a lot of) classified shell information on the Warthunder forum. Article soon.— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) June 1, 2022
Again, Gaijin deleted the post, but the user got banned this time after moderators confirmed the information was classified. The studio told Kotaku that its player base is passionate about realism, but it will not accept or entertain information or change requests from fans. It also noted that it has policies that forbid posting anything illegal or that would put the company or users in harm's way. Publicizing classified information seems to fall into the illegal category without question, but apparently, players don't seem to get it.
If you are a member of War Thunder's forums, keep in mind that you now have OPSEC from at least three different countries watching you. Be careful what you post.