According to an article in The New York Times by Mark Mazetti and Justin Elliot, PC games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life haven been infiltrated by spies looking to gather data on terrorists.
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.
Really? Hmm. I’m not an anti-terrorist security expert, but this just sounds like a sly excuse some spies fabricated after getting caught playing online games during a stakeout.
Apparently, this has been going on for quite some time now and there have even been some successful busts.
By the end of 2008, according to one document, the British spy agency, known as GCHQ, had set up its “first operational deployment into Second Life” and had helped the police in London in cracking down on a crime ring that had moved into virtual worlds to sell stolen credit card information. The British spies running the effort, which was code-named Operation Galician, were aided by an informer using a digital avatar “who helpfully volunteered information on the target group’s latest activities.”
I’m willing to bet that informant just wanted to bring down guys with higher scores. Is there no honor amongst gamers anymore? Check out the article for yourself – Spies’ Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Trolls.