Real Terror Cells Inside MMO Virtual Worlds?

Could that WoW gold farmer be helping fund Al Qaeda? Could a pair of avatars chatting in Second Life be secretly  planning a terrorist attack?

It’s an increasingly plausible scenario, according to intelligence expert Roderick Jones, who operates Concentric Solutions International. In an article for the Counterterrorism Blog, Jones writes:

While the makers of Second Life (Linden Labs) pursue an admirable utopian ideal these metaverse systems can potentially also be used by those seeking to pursue a radical agenda… The rapid and potent way in which communication takes place would seem to be an ideal platform for recruitment into radical groups, especially given the age range of those engaged in the world, which is typically 18-34…

Streaming video can be uploaded into Second Life and a scenario can easily be constructed whereby an experienced terrorist bomb-maker could demonstrate how to assemble bombs using his avatar to answer questions as he plays the video… Just as Real Life companies such as Toyota test their products in Second Life so could terrorists construct virtual representations of targets they wish to attack…

By far the most useful tool currently available to radical groups is the ability to transfer in-world money between avatars that can be translated into real currency…

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    […] Terrorism and the virtual world Here’s a sneak preview of a post that will be published on The Guardian’s gamesblog on Wednesday: GamePolitics throws out an issue I’ve been thinking about for a few years now, but have been loath to blog about – could the humble MMO be harbouring nefarious groups hell-bent on doing Evil to Western Civilisation? Could a terrorist actually be the person behind my so-called friend the Furry? Is s/he/it trying to draw me over to the dark side? What about all those cabals I’m not friendly with in my online games? Could they actually be groups of terrorists plotting against all that is Great and Good? […]

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    Conejo says:

    so… what about the “terrorist” posts here that are just crap advertisements, GP? i think and are probably supporting the bad guys.

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    Thefremen says:

    Wish there was a delete key. Anyhow, this is interesting because it does raise a good point, SL may very well be used to move money through hard to trace channels. Also, this will be very VERY handy for Republicans in upcoming elections since many dems have set up offices in SL, they can connect them with terrorism!

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    Brer says:

    Could the gold farmer be funding Al Qaeda? Quite possibly. In fact, I’m sure there are at least a few gold farmers out there who are right now. However, while the Internet is a great -communication- and -organization- medium for terrorist organizations it’s still not a huge source of -fundraising-. It’s groups like Russian organized crime and IP/Software Pirates (and here I mean Pirates with a capital ‘P’, the groups who organize, mass-produced pirated material, and sell it on street-corners or in shops in countries with looser copyright laws, not those-here-who-shall-remain-nameless-with-five-ISOs-torrenting-right-now) that profit from illicit or semi-licit revenue channels.

    Actually, I don’t see things like Second Life or MMOs being big communications resources, either. Much easier and more secure to setup secure, private forums, e-mail servers, or darknets (all of the above, BTW, have been used in the past by various terrorist groups) than to subject yourself to the possible scrutiny of administrated mediums like MMOs, or easily-hacked, open-source applications like Second Life.

    Finally, most terrorist groups (especially the Muslim ones) aren’t in desperate need of black market funds. Like the IRA back when Sinn Fein reps could go bar crawling in Southie and raise thousands, it’s far easier for them to raise money through intermediary groups passing the hat in Muslim communities in the west, and more generally in the Middle East itself (not to mention the large, anonymous funds transfers from wealthier individuals and governments in the Muslim world). Even after we cracked down on a lot of purported “humanitarian relief” groups here in the US like the Holy Land Fund for Relief and Development (sounds nice, doesn’t it? They sent money to Hamas to spring for the explosives for suicide bombers’ vests, and to ensure their private militias were kept in fresh ammo), there are still plenty left.

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    Konstruct says:


    Seriously, I don’t see this happening in WoW but it may be possible in SL. I mean gangs are recruiting in myspace now so its not a far stretch. But in heavily monitored communities such as WoW or other MMOs with corporate backing its highly unlikely that would go unnoticed.

    As for farmers funding terrorists, that sounds like crap and we all know it. These companies are made to make money for the owner and thats about it.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve gotta go and do bombing runs on the burning legion.

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    WiNG says:

    In all seriousness, this is possible. But I don’t see how it’s any more possible than in many other programs. Hell, you could do something like this in Gary’s mod for HL2!!!

    “Just imagine these explosive barrels are C4”

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    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    -.- I can actually see some idiots going onto furry community pages and going “you’re all terrorists!!!”

    I just don’t see this being true,.

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    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    At the end of the day, why risk using something like an MMO, which frequently keeps back-ups of all chat logs and in-game creations when you could use a proprietry IRC program to communicate just as effectively?

    The thing about ‘setting up fake hits’ in MMO’s is a bet of an extension of reality, quite frankly, Google Earth and a lot of cardboard boxes could do the job far more effectively.

    I don’t see farming making them all that much money, whilst the Gold trade is a lucrative industry in MMO terms, I think it would be quite hard to make enough to fund anything on a major scale, and, has been mentioned, there are more effective ways out there for laundering money.

    Basically, whilst I’ll admit it is possible, why would terrorists pay a monthly fee to work using an insecure exchange medium when they can pay nothing and use a more secure one?

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    DesertFox82 says:

    Just for the record, if any FBI or CIA agent is looking to pay folks to play WOW for hours on end looking for terrorists, I’m here to sign up.

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    Muetank ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    *GASP* What’s this? People interacting freely in an online game!? Allert the internets!

    Ok, any way, this is nothing more than fear mongering. People interact on the internet, it’s what it was made for. Poeple will use it for good and bad, we just have to accept that. There is no reasion to say “ZOMiGh0d terrorist on teh interwebz!” We’ll just have to take the good with the bad. I’m shure any way that if some one saw some “terrorist activity” going on in an online game or what ever, they would tell some one.

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    MDR says:

    I have to say that yes, this is pretty fear mongering.

    Kurisu, a friend of mine on SL had to deal with a couple of idiots that were strongly antifurry. One nearly crashed their favorite hangout while one got the wrong idea of fursuiting and berated the furs in there, though they and myself have no thoughts on fursuiting.


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    pen says:

    yea… i am going to attack the virtual twin towers…. hope my virtual airplane doesn’t get deleted by the virtual CIA.

    I might as well farm gold in WoW and sell it to fund my virtual terrorist network to do virtual suicide bombing runs on virtual american troops.

    LOL ok.. ok.. enough i am laughing to hard it hurts :X

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    Wookiee ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It seems that groups like Tom Clancy’s Net Force and William Gibson’s Console Cowboys may not be very far off from reality.

    P.S. Mr. Clancy, I loved Hunt for Red October, but Patriot Games was very biased, methinks.

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    Brokenscope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I may be misunderstanding how SL works but I think he brings up a valid point on the money laundering. However I have the odd feeling linden labs keeps a pretty intensive watch on money transfers.

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    Hannah ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Um… I think most anti-furry folks (on SL or elsewhere) only make fun of furries because they react in such an amusing way. To put it simply, it’s very hard to take any group that uses the term “fursecution” seriously. Yeah, I know it’s only the minority who freak out to such a large degree, but they’re a very vocal minority, and they seem quite common on Second Life. That game seems to amplify every little bit of internet drama, possibly because there isn’t much to do there except cyber, gossip, and grief.

    And really, the furry fetish IS pretty weird. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just means that the average person isn’t going to understand why you’re getting turned on by a crudely-animated skunk girl with 5 penises, and yeah, they might make fun of you for it.

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    robb ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think the obvious reason for this news story is to create fear. Let’s just talk about free enterprise in general. If it makes money, it can be used to fund any group’s agenda. Consider things with modest-to-great return, and the easier, the better. Ebay, Amazon partners, SPAM, rebates, videogame/DVD/CD piracy, and many more legal and illegal methods.

    WOW and SL are not special in this regard. This is press to make video gaming, particularly MMOs, look bad.

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    Dimitris Batis says:

    Mail, e-mail, mobiles, chat rooms (and probably pigeons too) are also communication mediums that terrorists can use to organise. So?

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    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Kurisu, a friend of mine on SL had to deal with a couple of idiots that were strongly antifurry. One nearly crashed their favorite hangout while one got the wrong idea of fursuiting and berated the furs in there, though they and myself have no thoughts on fursuiting.”

    Being anti furry is like being anti gay, pretty much useless.

    And to Hannah, that’s why I don’t use the term “fursecution.” I find it childish and moronic. And that five wingwong thing, ew. That wouldn’t do nothing form e at all, but, I get your point\, it can be damned weird.

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