World of Warcraft and other virtual worlds such as Second Life and X-Box Live has become a stomping ground for real life spies since as early as 2008 (likely longer.) This came about as the result of various agencies fearing terrorists were gathering in these virtual worlds to communicate or exchange money.
The idea of a Horde guild made up of Al-Qaeda trolls, orcs and Taurans planning attacks is a scary one indeed. Mixed in with legitimate players in the anonymous setting of an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) makes it an even scarier idea. What is even scarier than that is it makes perfect sense. MMORPGs are world-spanning, accessible to anyone with the rig to run these games, an internet connection and a credit card.
These days, with the current free to play business model used by many major MMORPGs like Star Trek Online, The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, and others, not even a credit card is needed. So, the threat of terrorists using online gaming to plan their activities seems to represent a clear and present danger.
According to more than 200,000 classified documents leaked to the press by Edward Snowden, a computer specialist, former CIA analyst, and a contractor for the NSA, a mass surveillance program conducted by the NSA has been in existence since 2008. Snowden, currently living in Russia under political asylum has been alternately called a traitor and a patriot among other things. At present he is a fugitive from American authorities, citing theft of government property.
His reason for leaking those documents that were reported on by The Guardian, ProPublica, and the New York Times was “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” His action has sparked debates concerning mass surveillance and government secrecy, as well as the needs of national security versus privacy of information.
NSA monitoring people through various means is not a new concept. Supposedly they have inserted code into smartphone operating systems to allow them to track and control those devices. Allegedly they also monitor people through other means as well. Drones, public cameras such as ATMs and traffic cams, snail mail, personal computers, WiFi, conventional communications—the list goes on; so why not online games?
Just what online games have been infiltrated by the NSA, CIA, FBI and other agencies of friendly nations such as Britain and Canada? World of Warcraft and Second Life have been cited as major games that these real life spies use as their stomping ground. Agents have created characters and avatars to spy on players and have monitored real time shooters and other games on XBOX Live, which also has ties to the PC community. Games that are popular on both console and PC? The long list includes Call of Duty Black Ops II, Grand Theft Auto V, and Skyrim.
It should be noted that a number of these online games lend themselves very well for terrorist operations planning. It should also be noted that the news entities mentioned above who reported on the leaked documents have not said if any terrorists plots have been thwarted, or even if terrorists are actively using the online gaming community.
Conspiracy theorists would likely be in favor of suspecting who terrorists actually are. After all why would all of these agencies have conducted surveillance activities for so long? Can the idea of the various agencies not uncovering a plot or two be completely ruled out? Perhaps World of Warcraft has become a permanent stomping ground for real life spies.
By Lee Birdine