NSA Video Game Snooping Revealed

That violent video games cause mass shootings at movie theaters and elementary schools is facetious common knowledge. That terrorists hang out on World of Warcraft and Second Life servers, well, that just makes sense in some twisted way following the same “logic.”

NSA Video Game Snooping Revealed

More Snowden revelations

According to a report by The New York Times today (and thank you again Edward Snowden), beginning in 2008 both the NSA and its British counterpart the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) began secretly monitoring and harvesting data from the two aforementioned online games.

While it’s not clear whether this led to any clear anti-terrorism intelligence, it is a fair guess that thanks to Snowden and The Times, anything that may have been gleaned from the servers of these two games should dry up about…

Either way, with both American and British spies joining the ranks of terrorists, elves and trolls the game is more interesting.

Why WoW?

It’s become quite clear in recent months that the NSA will mine data from anywhere they are able and it’s not a huge stretch to believe that the two games could provide online havens for the planning of attacks, movement of money and asymmetrical means of communication.

It’s believed that agents from both agencies created false online profiles in the hopes of being “recruited” by the terrorists operating in these online worlds.

“Because militants often rely on features common to video games [like] fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions, American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there,” the Times reported.

I haven’t been able to find out the numbers of German, French, or Brazilian World of Warcraft players are presently online playing these games or how many did in the the past, but it’s hard not to envision some sort of new NSA backlash.

Former NSA agent John Pescatore, who is presently director of emerging technologies at the SANS Institute, is not surprised by the revelations in the slightest, “Years ago, law enforcement and the intelligence community were concerned about criminal and terrorist use of online services like AOL or Compuserve,” he said. “So, I’m not surprised they would look at the online gaming world — they are just another form of online service.”

That’s a lot of years ago, almost approaching the Executive Order signed by Reagan in 1981 that the NSA believes gives them the authority to collect this data. Okay, AOL and Compuserve weren’t even near their infancy in 1981, but it’s been a while since was I reminded of Compuserve.

There has been no indication yet that either games’ creators were aware of the surveillance.