Pentagon Researcher shows how MMOs can be used by terrorists

Pentagon Researcher Conjures World of Warcraft Terror Plot - Image 1Terrorists will use any tool available to them. Even MMORPGs? Yes, a new presentation given at the Director of National Intelligence Open Source Conference in Washington gives a scenario on just how an MMO can be used to practice terrorist plots. First the White House… and then… the World! …of Warcraft?

Read this conversation scenario fromWorld of Warcraft, and see if you can spot what’s terribly, terribly wrong with it. It’s supposedly two players talking about an attack on the White Keep in the Stonetalon Mountains.

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Spotted it? Well, first of all, there’s no White Keep in World of Warcraft, and Dragon Fire is a spell in EverQuest. Weird, huh? Well yeah, the terminologies and scenario are a bit off, but the point is, this sounds like a typical conversation you might hear in an MMORPG, yes? It sounds innocent. But what if these were actually terrorists? (Gasp?) What if they weren’t talking about this White Keep at all, but the White House? (Double Gasp!)

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Seriously though. This scenario was presented at the Director of National Intelligence Open Source Conference, to demonstrate how terrorists can take advantage of MMORPGs as a meeting site for plotting out attacks.

Think about it: these are virtual worlds full of people from all over the globe, essentially hard to keep track of. Accounts are naturally pseudonyms, and secret codes can easily hide behind the already jargon-thick language of the MMO. If terrorists chose to use these virtual worlds as meeting grounds, they can easily blend into the crowd, even if they’re talking about terrorist plans, since they sound like they’re just talking about raids.

It may seem ridiculous – especially with how Jack Thompson kept on raving about how video games are murder simulators, and the thought that the level-70 shaman might actually be a terrorist – but it’s possible. Don’t let your imagination get the better of you though. It may be possible, but is it probable? Says Steven Aftergood, analyst who’s been following the intelligence community for years:

This concern is out there. But it has to be viewed in context. It’s the job of intelligence agencies to anticipate threats and counter them. […] Could terrorists use Second Life? Sure, they can use anything. 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.

Dr. Dwight Toavs, the one who gave the presentation, believes that spies should spend more time inside virtual worlds to monitor its players. Imagine that – highly-trained FBI and CIA agents raiding right alongside you.

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