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]