Print 21 comment(s) - last by inighthawki.. on Dec 11 at 9:51 PM

Agencies saw online gaming as an "opportunity" to trace possible terrorist threats

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) apparently has a team of hardcore gamers. 
According to a new report from The Guardian, the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ sent agents into the virtual worlds of the Xbox Live network, World of Warcraft, and Second Life to find acts of terrorism. 
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who initially uncovered the methods of the NSA earlier this year and has since revealed many documents and information about spy agencies, provided this latest secret NSA document from 2008 titled "Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments."
According to the document, spy agencies saw online gaming as an "opportunity" to extract communications between gamers as well as information about them for the purpose of tracing possible terrorist threats. The NSA said it worried about terrorists using the anonymity factor of online gaming through avatars for secret communications.
More specifically, the NSA used online gaming to build pictures of people's social networks through buddylists and communications (like messages) and obtain "target identifiers" like profile pictures and locations. It used Second Life's anonymous messages and noticeboards, communications in World of Warcraft and voice headsets and video cameras in Xbox Live. 
Further, GCHQ requested that the NSA extract World of Warcraft metadata from their intelligence to "link accounts, characters and guilds to Islamic extremism and arms dealing efforts." Meanwhile, GCHQ successfully obtained the discussions between game players on Xbox Live.

There are, however, just a few problems with this tactic. There was never any initial evidence that terrorists used online gaming as methods of communication; gamers who have no terrorist connections whatsoever could have had their privacy invaded; and this infiltration of online gaming never produced any real terrorist threats. 
Despite all of that, the document shows that the agencies have conducted mass-collection efforts against the Xbox Live console network, which has over 48 million players alone.
Microsoft hasn't commented on this yet, but Blizzard Entertainment -- maker of World of Warcraft -- said neither the NSA nor GCHQ asked for its permission to collect information in its games.  
"We are unaware of any surveillance taking place," said a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment. "If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission." 
As for Second Life, the game was crowded with government agencies back in 2008. The FBI, CIA, and the Defense HUMINT Service flooded the virtual worlds with staff from the different agencies to the point that they had to make sure each agency wasn't just duplicating what the others were doing.
After all of the online gaming surveillance through 2008, the only thing it accomplished was the successful takedown of a website used to trade stolen credit card details, which was found on Second Life. While this was certainly a good find, the question is, did it warrant all the online gaming surveillance from various government agencies, who were actually looking for terrorist activity in the first place? 

Source: The Guardian

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By Motoman on 12/9/2013 12:47:19 PM , Rating: 1
If they were watching me play WoW, all they got was tired of my same lame jokes over and over again... when the healer would tell everyone "don't stand in the fire" I'd always reply " bad?"

And then hilarity ensues.

By integr8d on 12/9/2013 2:02:02 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah. Can we rewind to the part where they were using people's Xbox cameras (and get a LOT more information about that)?

By Mitch101 on 12/9/2013 2:07:53 PM , Rating: 3
So some NSA agent is wacking off to my wife doing Zumba and Dance Central? You think the NSA has something to do with the latest version of Just Dance because it contains "I kissed a girl and I liked it?" Damn I know what department im applying to.

Ill either be wacked by someone looking to move in on the wife or the government will protect me for future wife booty shaking.

By Argon18 on 12/9/13, Rating: 0
By inighthawki on 12/9/2013 3:38:31 PM , Rating: 1
1) You CAN turn off the Kinect camera, and in fact not even have it hooked up
2) As I've tried to explain many times on this very site, this is not the same as spying on communications. You can only tap into and intercept data that is actually transmitted via a networked connection. As long as the Kinect is not streaming data outside of the xbox console itself, the NSA can't magically "tap into it" and watch the feed if it's not sending out data.

By GulWestfale on 12/9/2013 5:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
they can hack into the camera and makeit send data out... unless you turn off its internet connection.

By inighthawki on 12/9/2013 5:57:35 PM , Rating: 2
That requires hacking into the device, which is not what the NSA has been doing. The NSA has been snooping communication lines and, if necessary, breaking the encryption of the communications and storing it. This is not the same thing at all.

By p05esto on 12/9/13, Rating: -1
By unimatrix725 on 12/11/2013 2:51:05 PM , Rating: 2
I seem to recall a Sony mishap here. When the PS3 was originally released and to this day, it calls home. They included various things like browsing, movie, game habits and even what kind of hardware was connected via hdmi. I would bet you if you used wire-shark or other tools and monitored the xbox you would be shocked. I only have a original xbox as a XBMC, which is all any xbox is good for. With the news of the NSA "strong arming" Intel and VIA this would be easy. I would not be surprised if the XBOX OS has a NSA backdoor in the name of terrorism, um National Security. They have exploited many "Zero-Day" Exploits. There are articles here about the NSA "RATing" too. The average person is too dumb to turn off the camera or unhook it. Most people hook everything up and leave it, what a hassle to keep reattaching the camera. After all XBOX "always on" and calling in for updates, etc. That would be one way to "network" the box. I could seriously be here all day ranting about how ignorant your statement is .

By inighthawki on 12/11/2013 9:51:12 PM , Rating: 2
And I could sit here all day ranting about how dumb you sound. The Kinect has it's own hardware (including processor) which does all the image processing and merely sends commands to the xbox. The xbox does not constantly stream Kinect data and process it. So no, that would NOT be one way to "network" it.

Try again.

By Reclaimer77 on 12/9/2013 2:02:24 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget telling the DPS that boss AOE is actually an "agility cloud" they should stand in to get a buff.

Lol ahh, never got old.

By Da W on 12/9/2013 2:32:02 PM , Rating: 4
Here's Bin Ladden saying: "We had another terrorist attack planned, but some sheep-fucker had the brillant idea of using World of Warcraft to communicate. Our suicide bombers played and played and played and forgot about their holy mission."

By prophet001 on 12/9/2013 3:45:22 PM , Rating: 2

By ritualm on 12/9/2013 7:21:02 PM , Rating: 3
The problem isn't what the spy agencies see when they made the data grab. The problem is that the spy agencies are doing something they shouldn't be doing in the first place.

All of that blatant, warrantless data grab to protect the interests of the select few, and they are clearly not going after the "targets" they kept using as excuses. We are all being treated as terrorists and insurgents until proven otherwise, and we are not allowed to prove otherwise because it involves non-essential information the agencies deem as "matters of national security".

By Flunk on 12/9/2013 2:06:25 PM , Rating: 2
Surprise America, your government is now spying on your kids too!

RE: Kids
By ClownPuncher on 12/9/2013 5:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
As long as the government protects me from my terrorist kids, what's the big deal?

RE: Kids
By espaghetti on 12/9/2013 7:01:18 PM , Rating: 2
The fourth amendment.

RE: Kids
By purerice on 12/10/2013 2:55:27 AM , Rating: 3
reread the previous comment to unveil the humor hidden the first time you read it.

Won't work 100% of the time
By inperfectdarkness on 12/10/2013 2:50:25 AM , Rating: 2
This tactic might be useful on MMORPGs or similar, where it's a large environment where anyone is free to log in. It's quite another to eavesdrop on conversations that are private. There's a few reasons I can think of.

First, even on MMORPGs, private chat is simple. I can be logged into a server with hundreds/thousands, and still only transmit my words to select friends of my own chosing. Of course, this doesn't stop someone with a direct tap on the data feed...but it does thwart casual eavesdroppers.

Second, there's plenty of methods for online gaming that involve password-protected servers/games. While a password-protected game may not stop a direct-tap on the data feed, a dedicated server can do much to prevent this. This goes double if you're talking about a LAN (although this would limit the range of interaction).

Third, encrypting feeds at the source (i.e. end-user PC) can all but insure the impossibility of decrypting or monitoring chat/typing by participants.

...On the flipside, it's so stupidly easy to transmit information in a manner inaccessible to most. Imagine a true-crypted document with a file namechange (.avi, etc) and uploaded with a false description to a bit-torrent site. Downloaded via VPNs. That's a really tough nut to crack.

RE: Won't work 100% of the time
By Reclaimer77 on 12/10/2013 9:59:44 AM , Rating: 2
Hell you could use Bittorent Sync to communicate with your terrorist group by distributing encrypted text files. And nobody would know and you can't do a damn thing about it. Who the hell uses World of Warcraft?

Argh damnit, I just gave the "terrorists" another idea! Now the terrorists win :(

By EricMartello on 12/9/2013 1:14:15 PM , Rating: 1
Sound familiar?

rogue: LOL NOOB u iceblocked in a duel
mage: so what you used prep
rogue: you used cold snap cuz ur bad
mage: ur mad cuz ur bad and u lost
rogue: just spam icelance and u win
mage: 10 sec stun and 5 sec silence plus perma stealth and u cant win?
rogue: let me get mah hunter and wup ur azz
hunter: duel me b1tch
mage: sry bro waiting on cools
hunter: yea rite u just afraid to fight me when its fair
mage: kk lets go
hunter: lol i pwned you
mage: u used stampede and double deterrence
hunter: so wat im just playin my class. u should l2play
mage: you didn't beat me. your pets did
hunter: lol wuteva noob
mage: gg scrub

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