Pentagon sweating over possible World of Warcraft terror plots

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According to Pentagon researchers, the next 9/11 bloodbath on American soil might be plotted out in World of Warcraft... and that's making some politicians very nervous.

Danger Room's Noah Schachtman has a great write-up on a presentation recently made by Dr. Dwight Toaves of the National Defense University on how a meatspace terrorist attack might be plotted in a virtual world.

[T]wo 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.

I find this objectively fascinating, though I struggle to see how it is more useful than any of the other methods of communication a terrorist group might use to plot an attack. That this could happen in a "virtual world" is what is causing brow-mopping in Washington: the implication for the technologically Luditical is that terrorists have somehow tapped into a commercially-available, programmable virtual-reality mass murder simulator. But just as an FPS isn't a primer on how to actually shoot a gun, World of Warcraft isn't anything remotely resembling a terrorism simulator. TSA agents are not MOBS. A virtual world is, at best, a method of communication indistinguishable from email, IRC or web forums.

The sage word of reason comes from Steven Aftergood, an analyst for the Federation of the American Scientists: "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."

Pentagon Researcher Unveils Warcraft Terror Plot [Danger Room]

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15 Responses to Pentagon sweating over possible World of Warcraft terror plots

  1. strider_mt2k says:

    I’ve always thought that online multiplayer games that have the ability to chat within them could be used for covert communications as well.

    I don’t know how they could be monitored for such activity.

    BUM BUM BUUUUUUUUUUM!

    -SCAAARY!

    :\

  2. yasth says:

    Honestly getting terrorists hooked on WoW would probably be the greatest thing ever as far as national security goes.

    Terrorist: Can’t we plot later? The guild has this big raid tonight.
    OBL: Damn it lost another to that Cursed WoW, well I have a couple hours to kill. I wonder what the excitement is all about…

  3. belgium says:

    That quote is putting-your-finger-to-your-lips-and-blubbering crazy.

    Is this something you wrote back in April but forgot to post? Please tell me it is.

  4. swizzard says:

    It’s all gonna go awry when Old Greg trains the park service all over them.

  5. dnafrequency says:

    Conrats. They just told the terrorists how to plot an attack using WoW.

  6. Enochrewt says:

    Shh don’t tell the terrorists how to get into the Old Ironforge so they can’t use it as a secret base to plan their evilz!!1!

  7. salsaman says:

    dnafrequency, exactly– baffling logic to report on possibly effective terrorist schemes, unless the intention is to scare people for political or financial gain… but that make it terrorism. There oughta be a way to tag an article as pure fear mongering speculation.

  8. michaelportent says:

    Are you kidding me? This shows how utterly ridiculous our department of homeland security really is. They aren’t defending our ports of entry properly, but they can invade our online privacy at will and make any stupid press release to try and justify it.

  9. musicalwoods says:

    Retarded. “Oh noes! Murder simulator!” Uhm… they don’t have to be online to create an actual ‘murder simulator’. If making virtual worlds is so important to terrorist plots, I’m sure they have single player games, or even (gasp!) software for that.

    As for chatting, yeah, it’s a different protocol. Yeah, they can talk about terrorist plots while acting like they are talking about something else. What is new here? Someone in the Pentagon figured out people play games online?

    Seems like this fear-mongering will only lead to dumb laws being created and US MMOs getting hassled needlessly.

  10. Dillenger69 says:

    Does this mean Suicide bombers will start yelling “LEEEROOOOOY a-JEEEENNNNKIIIINS!” as they run into crowds to detonate?

  11. Dave Faris says:

    I’m pretty sure you’d never see “110 gold and 234 silver” anywhere in WoW. 234 silver is equal to 2 gold and 34 silver.

  12. SC_Wolf says:

    I can just imagine this researcher giving a presentation on this topic to his upper management:

    So, as you can see from my research, this is clearly an important communication channel that the government currently has no monitoring capability for.

    I propose forming a task force that will establish accounts on these servers for the purposes of logging the chat traffic. Of course, to ensure that these new accounts do not arouse suspicion, they’ll need to engage in the same activities as a typical WoW user.Since I’m already familiar with these activities from my previous research, I’d be glad to head up this task force for you.

  13. Rob Cockerham says:

    The only reason I’d even give this a glance is that maybe people playing Wow would discover that hunting, planning and carrying out attacks against tough opponents is fun in the fantasy world, and that maybe they would be fun in real life.

    You can get together 25 or 40 people for a raid, and you can lead those people to triumph? I can see how that could be dangerous… I mean, having an organized gang makes you feel powerful.

    It is a big leap to convert online players to real life participants, but I can understand that someone would imagine it happening.

  14. emowabi says:

    LF2M White House Heroic Need Tank and healz pst

  15. flufnut12 says:

    Anyone who plays WoW knows that they will never make it through the Barrens as Chuck Norris will get the terrorists and save the day.

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