The next time you run with a pick-up group in your favourite MMO, watch out. One of those randoms could be a terrorist, or a spook. According to Wired's Danger Room blog, the Director of National Intelligence Open Source Conference in Washington, Dr. Dwight Toavs, a professor at the Pentagon-funded National Defense University, painted a picture where terrorists gather in World of Warcraft to plan an attack on the White House. Wired has the full Powerpoint of this talk at their blog, so get ready to laugh/cry/hurl/gawp at what peacekeepers are thinking could be going on in the world's biggest MMO.
There are laughs a plenty thanks to poor grasp of WoW speak. If they want to catch terrorists in WoW, they'd better go native. And, in fact, that's exactly the point. Hmmm... devil's advocate take on why they may be right after the jump.This is all about context, and the primary issue for spy agencies is tracking online chatter that could reveal a plot being discussed in code. Such codes can stick out in forums and other easily searchable areas, but in lingo-heavy virtual worlds like WoW it is hard for an outsider to pick code from genuine game chat.
The presentation proves the point. To MMO natives, this fake transcript is clearly false. If you saw someone talking like this in WoW, maybe you would report them for suspicious activity! They're clearly not playing the game you're playing.
So on some level it makes sense they're talking about this, and that part of the solution would be to encourage some spies to spend significant time in virtual worlds so they can pick the game chat from anything that is out of place in that context. If context is the key, then some spies might have to be paid to become hardcore gamers — you know, in the same way some spies get to hang around casinos, drink martinis, and shag sexadelic women. It's a tough job, but maybe someone really does have to do it.
Pentagon Research Conjures Warcraft Terror Plot [Danger Room | Wired.com]