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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » NSA and GCHQ spied on WoW / Second Life and Xbox players and used covert players to extract information.

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128 posts found
  Ridelynn

Elite Member

Joined: 12/19/10
Posts: 3362

12/09/13 9:04:49 AM#21

This should surprise no one.

I remember reading as such years ago - that "federal agents" monitored WoW because it was being used as a chat room for "terrorists" and they would just substitute an in-game place for a real place, and talk about their plans rather openly.

Apparently killing Onyxia is against the national interest.

  MindTrigger

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/19/07
Posts: 2628

12/09/13 9:10:42 AM#22
Originally posted by lizardbones

 


Originally posted by MindTrigger

Originally posted by lizardbones I think it's interesting that with Google, Microsoft and other 'tech giants', the spy agencies can just take the data they want. With video games they have to insert actual people even though MMORPG players are monitored much more closely than people using any Google or Microsoft service. That close monitoring explains why MMORPGs are not really good places to conduct clandestine business. I can't decide if that's good or bad.
Actually, they are likely better places to conduct such activity than any other online service would be.  It's a closed/private system, and I would imagine that the data flow to and from something like a WoW server isn't the most friendly thing to "decode" and filter through without some serious custom code written. 

 

It puts them in a situation where they have to use "human intelligence" (real people) just like they do when needing to get information out of foreign lands.




Blizzard doesn't log everything players are doing only to make the information incomprehensible. It is bound to be very organized so Blizzard can do useful things with it. If the NSA or equivalent British agency obtained the information it would be very organized because it has to be to be useful. The quantity of information would not be a road block. These are organizations that are monitoring and creating meaningful data from five billion cell phone location signals on a regular basis. They also had no issue processing nearly all information provided by Google outside of the country, in addition to apparently hacking Google and Microsoft's secure servers and simply bypassing their encryption at the same time they were processing all those cell phone location and identity records. These are gargantuan operations.

I'm thinking it's more along the lines of the agencies sending out feelers to see if there's actually anything there. Why spend the time, money and resources on collecting all of Blizzard's data, if there's no indication that there's anything there? So step one is to send in human intelligence to see if there's anything worth looking at, besides gold farmers.

 

If what you are saying was true, then there wouldn't be much need for "boots on the ground" human intelligence.  99.9999999% of the chat data logged would be completely useless to the government.  Then you start factoring in "coded" language and stuff, and that data stream becomes even more difficult to deal with.

I do agree with you that they would likely need to have a reason to be looking at a particular game anyway.  Such as getting intelligence that certain persons of interest are playing the game in the first place.

 

A sure sign that you are in an old, dying paradigm/mindset, is when you are scared of new ideas and new technology. Don't feel bad. The world is moving on without you, and you are welcome to yell "Get Off My Lawn!" all you want while it happens. You cannot, however, stop an idea whose time has come.

  cnutemp

Novice Member

Joined: 7/01/12
Posts: 229

12/09/13 9:44:43 AM#23
Doesn't blizzard install a rootkit on your computer anyways in order to track hacking software?  Not like you had privacy in the first place.
  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10564

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

12/09/13 9:47:47 AM#24


Originally posted by cnutemp
Doesn't blizzard install a rootkit on your computer anyways in order to track hacking software?  Not like you had privacy in the first place.


Nope. You can run the game as a non-administrator. In order for a root kit to work, it would either have to completely bypass the system's security, which is a big no-no, or you have to start the game as an administrator. Much of the game runs server side to handle security.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10564

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

12/09/13 10:03:30 AM#25


Originally posted by MindTrigger

Originally posted by lizardbones  

Originally posted by MindTrigger

Originally posted by lizardbones I think it's interesting that with Google, Microsoft and other 'tech giants', the spy agencies can just take the data they want. With video games they have to insert actual people even though MMORPG players are monitored much more closely than people using any Google or Microsoft service. That close monitoring explains why MMORPGs are not really good places to conduct clandestine business. I can't decide if that's good or bad.
Actually, they are likely better places to conduct such activity than any other online service would be.  It's a closed/private system, and I would imagine that the data flow to and from something like a WoW server isn't the most friendly thing to "decode" and filter through without some serious custom code written.    It puts them in a situation where they have to use "human intelligence" (real people) just like they do when needing to get information out of foreign lands.
Blizzard doesn't log everything players are doing only to make the information incomprehensible. It is bound to be very organized so Blizzard can do useful things with it. If the NSA or equivalent British agency obtained the information it would be very organized because it has to be to be useful. The quantity of information would not be a road block. These are organizations that are monitoring and creating meaningful data from five billion cell phone location signals on a regular basis. They also had no issue processing nearly all information provided by Google outside of the country, in addition to apparently hacking Google and Microsoft's secure servers and simply bypassing their encryption at the same time they were processing all those cell phone location and identity records. These are gargantuan operations. I'm thinking it's more along the lines of the agencies sending out feelers to see if there's actually anything there. Why spend the time, money and resources on collecting all of Blizzard's data, if there's no indication that there's anything there? So step one is to send in human intelligence to see if there's anything worth looking at, besides gold farmers.  
If what you are saying was true, then there wouldn't be much need for "boots on the ground" human intelligence.  99.9999999% of the chat data logged would be completely useless to the government.  Then you start factoring in "coded" language and stuff, and that data stream becomes even more difficult to deal with.

I do agree with you that they would likely need to have a reason to be looking at a particular game anyway.  Such as getting intelligence that certain persons of interest are playing the game in the first place.

 




There's no reason to think that human agents are not needed. Gathering and processing location and personal connection information doesn't give any particular insight into what people are talking about, just that they are related or near each other. Having that information for a billion people doesn't really tell anyone which of those people are the important ones. I would bet there are more spies now than there have ever been before. If nothing else it takes real people to go kidnap the interesting people so you can have them decode things for you.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  CthulhuPuffs

Novice Member

Joined: 3/03/13
Posts: 379

Will consume your soul, yet stay crunchy in milk

12/09/13 10:05:04 AM#26

As much as I hate the Gov and the NSA/DHS, this is actually a smart move.

Why would a criminal organization risk getting caught planning something on a Cell phone when the whole group can get WoW subs, create a guild and start planning in some backroom in Stormwind.

 

Its brilliant actually

Bringer of Eternal Darkness and Despair, but also a Nutritious way to start your Morning.

Games Played: Too Many

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10564

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

12/09/13 10:16:12 AM#27


Originally posted by CthulhuPuffs
As much as I hate the Gov and the NSA/DHS, this is actually a smart move.

Why would a criminal organization risk getting caught planning something on a Cell phone when the whole group can get WoW subs, create a guild and start planning in some backroom in Stormwind.

 

Its brilliant actually




Except for the part where Blizzard logs nearly everything, including 'private' chat conversations for later use in court.

I would be interested in hearing someone from the industry (*cough* you know who you are) chime in on what some MMORPG developers log and what they don't. I've seen the results of players doing things in chat, having it logged and the resulting consequences, so I'm confident that it's logged. It would be nice to hear from an insider though.

**

There's probably a lot more logging going on in MMORPGs than in the real world.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/193241/intro_to_user_analytics.php?print=1

**

If I was going to setup some illicit communications network, it would be in a game where it didn't seem likely the company was capable of logging everything, or where even if they logged a lot of stuff they wouldn't be able to pay attention to all of it. At the same time the game would need to be large enough that player activity could get lost in the shuffle. Characters who did nothing but talk to each other would have to be something most people wouldn't notice. The game couldn't be that much fun either. It's no good trying to setup a clandestine meeting if your main guy is leading a raid and can't talk.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10564

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

12/09/13 10:25:30 AM#28

So here's the question.

What game is large enough that a communications network wouldn't be that noticeable to the players, and at the same time small enough that it doesn't look like the company would be capable of logging everything? It could also be that the company doesn't care enough to log player chat logs to improve the game. The ideal game would not be that much fun to play, to keep agents from getting distracted.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  cnutemp

Novice Member

Joined: 7/01/12
Posts: 229

12/09/13 11:11:12 AM#29
Originally posted by lizardbones

 


Originally posted by cnutemp
Doesn't blizzard install a rootkit on your computer anyways in order to track hacking software?  Not like you had privacy in the first place.



Nope. You can run the game as a non-administrator. In order for a root kit to work, it would either have to completely bypass the system's security, which is a big no-no, or you have to start the game as an administrator. Much of the game runs server side to handle security.

 

I doubt running the game as non-admin would make a difference.

http://www.wowwiki.com/Warden_(software)

  apocoluster

Novice Member

Joined: 4/15/07
Posts: 1295

\m/,

12/09/13 11:16:14 AM#30
  Lol some NSA nerd convinced his boss to let him play world of Warcraft at work.  You know.... I thin there might be some national security threats at Playboy.com too

No matter how cynical you become, its never enough to keep up - Lily Tomlin

  Gruug

Elite Member

Joined: 4/03/08
Posts: 1172

The more you know, the more you know you don't know.

12/09/13 11:25:25 AM#31
Originally posted by Ridelynn

This should surprise no one.

I remember reading as such years ago - that "federal agents" monitored WoW because it was being used as a chat room for "terrorists" and they would just substitute an in-game place for a real place, and talk about their plans rather openly.

Apparently killing Onyxia is against the national interest.

 

This.  Surprised anyone remembers that. In fact, WoW was specifically mentioned even then as a virtual gathering place for Al Queda and other groups. If you ask me, it makes sense for ANY intelligence organization to look at such things. That is IF they are targeting SPECIFIC people and not the entire group of WoW (or any online game) players.

Let's party like it is 1863!

  SpottyGekko

Elite Member

Joined: 9/26/04
Posts: 2877

12/09/13 11:25:33 AM#32
Originally posted by apocoluster
  Lol some NSA nerd convinced his boss to let him play world of Warcraft at work.  You know.... I thin there might be some national security threats at Playboy.com too

Oh, I'm sure there's whole departments of cryptologists studying every single image on Playboy.com to ensure there are no threats to national security encoded in the gfx... 

  aspekx

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/24/05
Posts: 2189

12/09/13 11:37:00 AM#33

i think the only thing that surprises me about the whole NSA fiasco is that anyone is surprised.

 

before you prejudge me to be a gun toting militia member with his head buried in conspiracy theories: i'm not, i mean at all. i don't read that stuff. the people i have run into that do drive me batty. i don't have an issue with guns, but i don't own one. i simply don't feel the need. (although shooting and blowing things up is fun, but that's what i have games for :)

 

so i'm not surprised, not because of some hidden fringe element in my life. it's very simple though: if you give people these kinds of powers and/or tools they will be used. no evolutionary descendant of apes that i know of doesn't get at least curious. so if nothing else you should expect that security agencies get 'curious', 'will this really do all that?'

 

and that's a bare minimum of expectation. add to that any one with a power trip, or a hostile agenda against certain groups (or any group for that matter) and you get the situation we have now.

"There are at least two kinds of games.
One could be called finite, the other infinite.
A finite game is played for the purpose of winning,
an infinite game for the purpose of continuing play."
Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse

  CyclopsSlayer

Novice Member

Joined: 1/31/04
Posts: 532

12/09/13 11:48:35 AM#34
Originally posted by SpottyGekko
Originally posted by apocoluster
  Lol some NSA nerd convinced his boss to let him play world of Warcraft at work.  You know.... I thin there might be some national security threats at Playboy.com too

Oh, I'm sure there's whole departments of cryptologists studying every single image on Playboy.com to ensure there are no threats to national security encoded in the gfx... 

All too true I am sure!

 

This however should have come as a surprise to no one. All Social Media is watched, and what are MMO's but Social Media with a twist? 

Wouldn't surprise me at all to learn next that the NSA has taps into the VOIP server companies, and that all Mumble, Ventrilo, Teamspeak channels can be tapped. They aren't Phone calls, so they might say they need no warrents to tap your guilds next raid, quest, or bored player gatherings.

  Kyleran

Bitter Vet™

Joined: 9/13/06
Posts: 18993

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. Pvbs 18:2, NIV

12/09/13 11:50:26 AM#35

At the end of the day, even if true they are getting nothing of interest from my online chats and communications, heck even I fall asleep on them sometimes.

Wait, do you suppose they are monitoring us here on MMORPG.com as well?

"In these forums 'honest' seems to be a symonym for 'hates the game just like I do'" - ohioastro
Kyleran - Bitter Vet ™ since 2006
"This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10564

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

12/09/13 12:09:31 PM#36


Originally posted by cnutemp

Originally posted by lizardbones  

Originally posted by cnutemp Doesn't blizzard install a rootkit on your computer anyways in order to track hacking software?  Not like you had privacy in the first place.
Nope. You can run the game as a non-administrator. In order for a root kit to work, it would either have to completely bypass the system's security, which is a big no-no, or you have to start the game as an administrator. Much of the game runs server side to handle security.  
I doubt running the game as non-admin would make a difference.

http://www.wowwiki.com/Warden_(software)




It doesn't root the system. It has information that any application running under the current user has. That doesn't mean Blizzard couldn't root a user's system. They just don't need to, so they don't. It's much more effective to ban a user for using bot software than to shut the bot software down on a user's machine.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  erictlewis

Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/08/08
Posts: 3058

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

12/09/13 12:16:12 PM#37

this is why I canceled my xbox live subscription, and I refuse to upgrade to xbox one.  

 

  erictlewis

Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/08/08
Posts: 3058

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

12/09/13 12:23:32 PM#38
Originally posted by Vermillion_Raventhal
I wonder how monitored voice chat programs like vent and mumble.

Considering the number of servers I don't know how you would monitor all that, unless you had a sweeper program though watched for certain keywords to be spoken to activate a record of the conversation. 

If they ever listened to our vent channel during raid they might get an earful of foul moth taking people.  That mix with some strats of move here, scouts attack, mages attack.  LoL.

 

  garretth

Novice Member

Joined: 8/08/03
Posts: 315

12/09/13 12:24:34 PM#39
Now if they could just get rid of gold sellers. . . . .
  dave6660

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/26/08
Posts: 2338

"Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you."

12/09/13 12:34:51 PM#40
Originally posted by garretth
Now if they could just get rid of gold sellers. . . . .

What if they are the gold sellers...

"Why so serious?"
-- The Joker

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