Pentagon Researcher Details Hypothetical WoW-hatched Terror Plot

By Nick Breckon, Sep 15, 2008 8:20pm PDT A researcher working for the Pentagon last week presented to members of the US intelligence community a hypothetical scenario that would see foreign militants using World of Warcraft to evade spy agencies in the planning of a terrorist plot.

Dr. Dwight Tovas of the National Defense University presented slides featuring WoW maps and chat logs to illustrate how a group of terrorists might use the global, unmonitored MMO to communicate in secret.

Says Wired of the scenario:
In it, two World of Warcraft players discuss a raid on the "White Keep" inside the "Stonetalon Mountains." The major objective is to set off a "Dragon Fire spell" inside, and make off with "110 Gold and 234 Silver" in treasure. "No one will dance there for a hundred years after this spell is cast," one player, "war_monger," crows.

Except, in this case, the White Keep is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "Dragon Fire" is an unconventional weapon. And "110 Gold and 234 Silver" tells the plotters how to align the game's map with one of Washington, D.C.

A February report from the Director of National Intelligence notes that the US intelligence community is already looking to perfect software that would automatically detect suspicious behavior within virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft.

But some are skeptical of whether the policing of MMO games is a high priority for national security.

"Could terrorists use Second Life? Sure, they can use anything," said intelligence analyst Steven Aftergood. "But is it a significant augmentation? That's not obvious. It's a scenario that an intelligence officer is duty-bound to consider. That's all."

Click here to comment...


58 Threads | 122 Comments

  • That's what bots are for, and I'm sure peepz in the Pentagon realize the awesome potential of narrow minded A.I.

    More on it here:

    Forget about HAL-like robots enslaving humankind a few decades from now, the takeover is already underway. The agents of this unwelcome revolution aren’t strong AIs, but “bots”– autonomous programs that have insinuated themselves into the internet and thus into every corner of our lives. Apply for a mortgage lately? A bot determined your FICA score and thus whether you got the loan. Call 411? A bot gave you the number and connected the call. Highway-bots collect your tolls, read your license plate and report you if you have an outstanding violation.

    Bots are proliferating because they are so very useful. Businesses rely on them to automate essential processes, and of course bots running on zombie computers are responsible for the tsunami of spam and malware plaguing Internet users worldwide. At current growth rates, bots will be the majority users of the Net by 2010.

    We are visible to bots even when we are not at our computers. Next time you are on a downtown street, contemplate the bot-controlled video cameras watching you, or the bots tracking your cellphone and sniffing at your Bluetooth-enabled gizmos. We walk through a gauntlet of bot-controlled sensors every time we step into a public space and the sensors are proliferating.

    Bots are at best narrow AI, nothing that would make a cleric remotely nervous. But they would scare the hell out of epidemiologists who understand that parasites don’t need to be smart to be dangerous. Meanwhile, the Internet and the complex of processing, storage and sensors linked to it is growing exponentially, creating a vast new ecology for bots to roam in. Bots aren’t evolving on their own — yet.

  • Wow. My government is full of morons. Why would any terrorist organization bother setting up a WoW account just to communicate? Lets say they wanted to use WoW to communicate. Wouldn't it be easier to just connect to one of the privately run WoW servers? Require no money and not controlled by any corporation. Although the reality is they're not that stupid. Easier route would be to use a forums system, chat server, etc. They've already used them before and continue to use them. And with a little encryption with VPN or other setups no one can monitor your traffic. While it's nice that the government wants to monitor everything, it's unfortunate that terrorists are smarter than them.

  • These guys come up with potential threat models all the time, there's tons of minds out there who do this every day of the year. Intelligence Agencies, Think Tanks, and the likes of this.

    It'll go up the flag pole but things that are more important will get eyes on it. Also, coming up with scenarios is a good way to be prepared when evidence is collected that supports it, it's like a kind of science. This is a theory, theories need observable evidence.

    Intelligence Officers have to come up with scores of possible Enemy Courses of Action, but you cannot collect intelligence on all of them as time and resources are finite. So you have to eliminate the ones that are least likely to occur and also the ones that least support the enemy's objectives. So in the end, you end up with the likely courses of action that you can address with your resources and information gathering and then you go forward with it.

    It's standard in this field, the shack just happened to report on something that probably near the bottom of the food chain.

    Everyone just needs to chill out, this doesn't mean the gov't is going to start subscribing to WoW and develop a team of individuals to stake out groups in the game, they got bigger fish to fry.