NSA spied on World of Warcraft, Second Life

Stephen Colbert weighs in on the latest news that the NSA, and other US agencies, spied on “World of Warcraft” and “Second Life” to see if terrorists were using the online video games to communicate with each other.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    To?

  • Lee Murray

    I am a NSA agent to, who else in here is?

  • Innini Innanna

    So NSA has spied on you in Second Life. Here are some suggestions: http://thefishpress.blogspot.no/2013/12/nsa-trawling-second-life.html

  • karlInSanDiego

    Alexander has 4 Masters Degrees, including Systems Technologies and Physics. He is a geek.

  • ArthurH

    Who do you think Wario was?

  • Indigo

    I agree, I think Snowden’s a hero. I fault the system for being so corrupt that he came forward with all that information. But I’m befuddled that the system didn’t catch on to his integrity. It’s the Dilbert-bosses at the top who don’t notice integrity when it stares the in the eye. Amazing!

  • Nathanael

    They’re just trying to get paid to have fun.

    I worry more about the ones who are spying on their girlfriends.

    I worry *much* more about the ones who are spying on politicians, because they’re clearly working for people who want to blackmail politicians.

  • Nathanael

    Snowden — had an absolute perfect record for top security clearance.

    In fact, I think he’s one of the only guys at the NSA who *deserved* top security clearance, because he’s one of the only ones who actually took his oaths seriously, one of the only ones who was actually patriotic. The question in my mind is how a perjurer like Keith Alexander got top security clearance.

  • Nathanael

    That’s what the low-level people are doing.

    But the conspiracy is the conspiracy to keep getting away with this criminal stuff.

    The conspiracy comes from the Alexander and Clapper types, who are *not* geeks.

  • Nathanael

    Yeah. But I’d be more OK with it if they’d decided to set up a giant gardening program.

    Defund it all and convene a grand jury to start prosecuting the NSA criminals.

  • John Craft

    WoW Leveling and Gold guides http://www.99wowguides.com

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    All of the worst libertarian and Objectivist types I’ve ever met were computer geeks.

    Hear, Hear!

    I’ve noticed that about the guys who are running the largest tech companies. They’re amoral and have absolutely no problem doing anything to get what they want. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, just to name two, are slightly varying versions of this kind of people. They feel that because they can program computers, they have all the answers. They think that if only we’d just sit back and let them run the show, we’d all be better for it.

    Oh, and before anyone brings up the charitable enterprises of some of these people, keep in mind that some of them had to be dragged kicking and screaming into them (Gates), most are making money from these so-called charitable enterprises (Gates, again) and others are doing it for the PR value (Zuckerberg). Google, for all of their “Don’t be evil” crap, is only objecting to the NSA spying because they feel that they’re the only ones who should be allowed to spy on the technically inept among us. Don’t be fooled by these people throwing a small portion of their vast fortune toward charitable causes. They’re doing it for their own purposes.

    When you have an entire government agency full of socially inept amoral numbers wizards, be very afraid – regardless of how charitable they may seem to be.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I used to play WoW, but got bored with it after the Firelands expansion. When the Pandaria thing came along I asked myself, “Do I really want to keep on with this? Nah…”

    Right now, I have a whole slew of games I’ve been playing, and picked up even more I haven’t even tried yet during the ‘Cyber Monday’ sales week. I mean, a copy of Civ 5 Gold Edition for $20? Although my late night obsession lately has been the Kerbal Space Program. I’m still trying to master orbital mechanics, but slowly getting better.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    I’ve long believed that people should be required to provide proof that they have a first life, before being permitted to play Second Life. But hey… I’d take that kind of salary to play WoW. Hell, I’d take any salary to play WoW, seeing how much time I already put into it for free. :)

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Yeah, but maybe the point isn’t to get useful information, but to be paid six figures by the U.S. gov’t to spend all day playing Warcraft and 2nd Life. ;-)

  • trinu

    I suspect this particular program was less about spying and more about NSA employees finding ways to play WoW on the job, while convincing “collect it all” Alexander that they were doing actual work.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    And in that manner, they only things they’re likely to learn is that rogues always stand in the fire, and nobody likes to heal warlocks. The chances of them finding anything useful to national security would be greater if they just stood on a street corner asking people randomly if they were terrorists.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Y’know, when your budget is effectively infinite, a person — or unaccountable government agency — can and will come up with all manner of bizarre and pointless ways to waste it.

    Power corrupts. It’s never been more true than now.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Infiltration. That’s how you can spy as a player.

  • Zorba

    They are very “smart” in a way, but not in totally constructive ways.
    I am convinced that many of them are on the milder side of the autism spectrum. Really, really good at math, engineering, and computers, but with absolutely no understanding about society and social skills.
    I agree that it is “fun” to them. All of it is a big computer game to them.
    And I would wager that the people who program and control the drones are much the same.
    In no way do I intend to disparage “geekiness.” My entire family consists of nerds and geeks, and I do not exclude myself from that characterization. But somehow, we have all learned empathy and concern for others. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for that!)

  • Zorba

    LOL! Of course they are, DB. There are no privacy rights any more, don’t you know? Because……because……9/11, terrorism, scary, scary! And all that. Fuggedabout the Bill of Rights.
    And I say, f*ck you, NSA.

  • http://poodyheads.wordpress.com/ Daddy Bear

    If? IF???

    hahahahahahahahaha

  • Indigo

    The thing about vast government conspiracies is that our government is so clumsy that the spill rate is pretty high. Witness Snowden who should never have been vetted into the job he had that allowed him so much access. As for the whiz-kids populating the NSA, maybe some keyboard cowboys but not the upper echelon.

  • Reasor

    That effective reconnaissance on WoW would involve electronic surveillance on the data centers where the game is hosted, to pull the chat logs, tells me that all of this “virtual boots on the virtual ground” nonsense was a scam to play World of Warcraft while on the clock. The agents who came up with the idea should be promoted for their ingenuity; the bosses who fell for it ought to be fired.

  • Indigo

    If they’re trolling the blogs, they’re probably right here watching and, perhaps, baiting.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    sigh

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Square Enix has already had many problems with accounts being compromised through their own system, as well as dealing through Sony. Blizzard had some issues in the early days with WoW accounts being hacked, but they quickly offered up the third-party authenticator, and it helped immensely. Both games offer authenticators now, so if your account is getting compromised, it is most likely something you did wrong on your end, not theirs. But you’re right, when someone is paying 15 bucks a month for something, and put hours of effort into playing up a character, they’re going to be a lot more concerned if they lose it than if they lose their free YIM account.

    I’ve been an online gamer for many years, from the days of the earliest MUDs. Gamers tend to be a clique-ish crowd, who don’t readily let just anyone into their circle unless that person has proven themselves to be especially adept at the game. So really, what are they looking for, and how they are intending to find it? Even if terrorists are using MMOs as a more secure form of communication, as a player the chances of even being able to find such a group amidst the millions of other World of Warcraft players is infinitesimally small, unless they are laughably careless. We’re talking shoe-bomber, underwear-bomber, caught because they were complete idiots, careless. So has the NSA simply reduced itself to spending billions of tax payer dollars every year, not even trying for low-hanging fruit, but instead trying to pick up fruit that has already fallen to the ground?

  • Monoceros Forth

    You’re probably right. But there is a valid point maybe. Blizzard and Square Enix have a strong incentive to maintain a high level of security on their players’ accounts, a much stronger incentive than (say) Yahoo might have in keeping their accounts secure. If someone finds out that their YIM account has been compromised they probably shrug and open up a new one. But if a WoW or FFXIV player finds out that his account has been compromised, he is not going to be pleased. As a result it’s probably that conversation between fellow MMORPG players is in fact a safer and more secure thing than conversation over other IM channels.

  • Monoceros Forth

    This sort of thing just reinforces my belief that the NSA is populated by a bunch of out-of-control math and computer geeks intoxicated with the power that comes from their ability to do whatever they want without any restriction whatever. I’ve known a lot of computer geeks and…frankly, as a mass, they’re not the smartest or most thoughtful people in the world. They’ve devoted their lives to being really good at a really limited but vital aspect of human technology, and a lot of people like that come to think that just because they’re really good at playing with a specific set of toys that must mean they’re gods among men. All of the worst libertarian and Objectivist types I’ve ever met were computer geeks.

    Others may see a vast government conspiracy behind the activities of the NSA. Without denying that possibility, let me suggest that a good deal of what activities of the NSA that’ve been revealed is very simply explained as the unrestrained playtime of a pack of amoral geeks who don’t care about one single thing beyond their superior geekiness. “Cool, we got away with that! Who can we spy on next? This is fun!”

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    I just don’t get how one can ‘spy’ using online games. Unless Linden and Blizzard are allowing them access at the server level, they can’t see any other player’s private conversations, or any of their group chats unless they are specifically invited. So really, the only thing they could do is troll public chats, searching for people who are dumb enough to talk about questionable things to anyone who will listen. And I’d be willing to bet that 99.99999% of those people, are just 10 year old kiddies, also trolling public chats just trying to get people riled up. Or fellow NSA trolls, trolling each other. This all sounds more like an excuse to play games on the government’s dime, and then trot out the “for national security” bullshit line to justify it than any kind of actual program with the intent of gleaning useful intel.

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