US, UK spy agencies infiltrate online games, virtual worlds

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US, UK spy agencies infiltrate online games, virtual worlds

Extensive surveillance of gamers.

The latest leak of documents from former United States National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden reveal American and British spooks participate in online games and virtual worlds to recruit informants and collect data in gamers.

Jointly published by The Guardian, ProPublica and The New York Times, the NSA briefing document for US, Australian, Canadian, British and New Zealand officials points to further extensive surveillance by the spy agencies.

World of Warcraft, Second Life and Microsoft Xbox Live are some of the better-known games targeted by the NSA, CIA, FBI and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) agency, according to the the leaked document.

GCHQ's network gaming exploitation team said in minutes from 2009 it had identified people such as engineers, embassy drivers, scientists and foreign intelligence operatives as World of Warcraft players, in the hope of turning them to work against their own countries.

That same year, GCHQ tested how much it could collect in real time from virtual world Second Life, and picked up three days' worth of information that amounted to 176,677 lines of data.

Without providing evidence of terrorists actually playing the games, the document stated that "radical groups" are using them to "propagate religious ideology."

As an example, the document mentions a multi-level children's game, Islamic Fun, that includes titles such as Fishing Bear, Tree Hop and Two Bunny Race but also The Resistance, in which 'users assume the role of farmers in Southern Lebanon who join the Islamic Resistance against invading Israelis.'

Concern over so-called Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) providing access to secure and anonymous communications facilities for terrorists were also raised in the document, along with recruitement and fund raising opportunities.

The NSA also compiled a table with the exchange rates for real-life currencies and those used in online games, as it suspected money laundering and fund-raising by terrorists.
World of Warcraft gamers themselves appear to be aware of the monitoring and suggesed the spy agencies efforts are a waste of time.
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