Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke White House

September 16, 2008 -

Planning a high level raid is tough enough in World of Warcraft, but a Pentagon researcher warns that al Qaeda could plan a nuclear attack on the White House via the popular MMO.

Wired's Danger Room reports that  Dr. Dwight Toavs, a professor at the Pentagon-funded National Defense University laid out such a scenario at the National Intelligence Open Source Conference in Washington, D.C. last week:

...two 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.

 

... details are a little fuzzy. The terminology doesn't match World of Warcraft lingo, all that precisely. There is no "White Keep" in World of Warcraft; "Dragon Fire" is a spell in EverQuest, the old-school role-playing game, not WoW. But the banter is reminiscent enough of World of Warcraft talk, to give outsiders an idea of how such a conversation might go down -- and how hard it would be to identify.

But Steven Aftergood of the Federation of the American Scientists was skeptical:

This concern is out there. But it has to be viewed in context. It's the job of intelligence agencies to anticipate threats and counter them. With that orientation, they're always going to give more weight to a particular scenario than an objective analysis would allow. 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.

For his part, Toavs believes that anti-terror operatives may have to go undercover in games like WoW.

GP: This issue comes up periodically from the counter-terror community. Usually, Second Life is the main suspect. But would terrorists really go to all the trouble of using WoW as an assembly area when IMs, PGP-encrypted e-mail and steganography are readily available?

Besides, wouldn't WoW-playing terrorists become addicted like everyone else and neglect their jihad?

Finally, We've reported previously that Middle-East expert Juan Cole has dismissed the MMO terror cell notion:

What's the real game here?

...The notion that wandering around such an imaginary world with a computerized body is dangerous to anyone seems itself cartoonish and calls into question the public hand-wringing by security experts.
 

 


Comments

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Gallagher can araç kiralama say all he wants, but I strongly rent a car believe it's due to his crappy leadership and E3 being a joke. ESA's Board of Directors need to find a way to get out rent a car of this horrid contract with this Bush cronie before there's no one left on the Board.

Btw, I think Atari and Midway will drop out too, but mostly travesti because  these guys have done nothing ttnet vitamin or little and need to start saving costs.

YES.

Now I don't have to get off my ass for the important shit anymore!

Whats next, ordering pizza from Xbox live?

Wait... I think that sounds like a good idea.

But I think voting should MAKE you get off your ass, and see outside or a second while you go vote. I mean, your picking the president of the United States of America for God's Sake... least you can do is drive down there and punch out a card.

 

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

*gasp*

Lets hope terrorists don't speak in other foreign languages either, else we'll never know what they're saying!!!

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

...Ye- no.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

I have a good friend who worked in Navy encryption for four years.

His take on this? "It's absolutely plausible."

"The problem with encryption is it can always be cracked. The only real way to hide communication is volume. And in a game with 5 million people logged in at any one time, you've got all the volume you need."

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

This is beyond stupid.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Actually, it's beyond smart.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

 Since operatives can chat on Ham Radio, IRC, email, p2p networks, skype, prepaid cell phones, secret messages in al quida tapes, newsgroups, yahoo questions, the CAD forum, Something Awful forum, YTMND, etc etc shouldn't the concern be whether or not they get their hands on enough material to make any sort of nuclear weapon? 

 

Do we just have our bombs which used to be pointed at Moskow just laying around for anyone to pick up, leaving the only concern that someone will talk about it on Everquest or WoW?

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

This is just ridiculous.

 

In theory it would be something that could work. But this seems to be something more designed to make non computer people paranoid then a feasible plan. There are just too many things that could go wrong.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

The biggest terrorists in the world are our own government. They take away our freedoms in the name of security and use stupid crap like this to scare us into complacency.

Shit they told us we could protect ourselves from a chemical attack with ****ing duct tape.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

It's dumb....   Of course they could use WoW...   They could also use messenger pigeons...  Or they could use planes to bring down buildings.  So what???   Let's shoot every pigeon on sight, let's get rid of every game, every means of communication, etc....

 

Dumb people think dumb things!

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

 see, not use. uggh typos. crappy keyboard, sorry.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

 IMs, PGP-encrypted e-mail and steganography are readily available?

As someone who as worked in this area, I can tell you that no major league terrorist would use such technology, because when you encryot something like that, it gets noticed by the NSA and other professionally nosy organizations. The most effective way is to simply do what they dp here and use code words or euphmisms, or if you really have to shift something large, use a huge file transfer to hise it (stick it in the middle of 300 baby photos). But yeah, if some guy in a Daubi cyber cafe sent something with high level encryption, I gaurantee someone would use it. Something like this isn't out of the question.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

But PGP is damn near impossible to crack. Unless we want to wait a few 100 thousand years, or a computer revolution which increases the speed of computers by million times. This is no exaggeration too.

I trust Steve Gibson when he said that PGP is that good.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

 But using it draws attention to yourself, which is exactly what a professional terrorist wants to avoid when communicating. Let's put it this way: you send your information down the highway in a armored car to protect it from being read, or you can put in a car just like the thousands of others out there, and rest secure in the knowledge that there is no feasible way for the cops to search every car. 

And the NSA and other agencies do not play fair when it comes to situations like this. They cheat. Based on my experinces, I would not be suprised if they had arranged with the company that made such software to have a backdoor written in ''in the interest of national security''. Or they would go on your home computer and get the encryption key. Or used HUMINT to get the information. If they want it bad enough, they will find a way to leverage it open.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

 Why are Americans so paranoid? Al Qaeda are just some poor people in somebody's back yard. big deal....

Everyone points bombing to Al Qaeda, but in reality Al Qaeda just talks big, harrassing people and sowing hatred. Now they has made  America fear them. Why should America fear this poor organisation when it has modern warfighting technologies.

 

You fear them, they have already won the battle.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Modern warfare technologies are surprisingly ineffective against the tactics employed by “terrorists” and “insurgents,rebels,freedom fighters, partisans,etc”. Especially when the larger conventional forces put a rather higher value on human life. The joys of asymmetric warfare.

Most of America is not paranoid, most of America is shockingly stupid, about many things. It is amazing how quickly people throw reason out the window when you say certain words.

According the the DHS, we should have had at least one attack since 9/11. Atleast according to the "Threat level" Instead I think it is safer to assume that people want to justify their rather large budget.


 

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

This just seems a bit silly to me - essentially they're implying that an MMO is somehow a special case when it comes to hiding the true meaning of a conversation.

Surely they realise there are far easier ways to do this, eg. email - simply replace "white house" with / and "nuke" with ?.

I'm fairly sure that even the best monitoring we've got would miss some suspect punctuation.

Heck they could just post chocolate bars to each other to get the message across if they'd worked out a code in advance.

It's amazing that people get paid to waste time and to stir up public outrage like this.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Public outrage & fear is what keeps them employed and in power. 

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

You're right - but i wish you weren't. :(

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

 

World of Warcraft... when you're too dumb to send emails that are PGP encrypted. 

Really, I don't see how they could consider this a viable way to transmit data (both sides, terrorists and the govt.).  There are too many uncontrolled middle points for anyone planing something illegal that are open to eavesdropping.

*The comunication isn't encrpyted, anyone on the local network (both sides) to any ISP between the two could listen in.  (Packet sniffing is *EXTREMELY* easy)

*Blizzard itself.  Even if say the client (WoW game itself) encrypted data sent ingame.  Blizzard would have the key to unencrpyt it and hand it over (or any other game / publisher in this position).

*Visibility / Paper trail.  Its a subscription service, there is a paper trail.  I know Blizzard doesn't exactly ask for your dna to use the service, but between payments, IP addresses, and your in game contacts / mail history thats plenty to home in on a location.

Off the top of my head better ways to plan something like this..

*Personal IRC channel with encrpyted text that is decripted on the client side (IRC client).

*Email encrypted via PGP or the like with strong passphrases

*Personal colo'd linux machine using ssh and the linux write command and bash history disabled.  http://linux.about.com/od/commands/l/blcmdl1_write.htm

Those are just off the top of my head.

I have to ask if they're really spending money on topics that could be foiled by your average script kiddy?  In a world where even the complicated functions of a computer comes down to point and click interfaces, I would hope they would raise their bar to something a little bit higher then "Video games could connect terrorists to plot our demise".

 

<Political Bullshit>

As a final note.. Hey jackasses, want to help curb terrorism in a realistic way?  How about we pull our troops from all these damn countries that don't want us there?  Ever happen to think thats why they're so pissed off?

</Political Bullshit>

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

It wasn't all that long ago I remember something on the news about how the US military was looking at the way MMOs are organized as something they should emulate for their own defensive and offensive measures...

I kinda doubt whoever is coming up with this is doing it so they can play the game at work... unless they purposefully messed up on the in-game facts. What a completely idiotic zone to pick for a raid (unless it's "mash teh low-lvl Horde/Alliance guards time). I want to know where this Keep is in Stonetalon Mountains... or how one can get a right-click item with a spell sounding that powerful, because surely this guy knows actual player spells don't actually go in inventory...

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

This remind me of so many movies and tv shows wher ethe main character thought his neighbors were up to no good but they were really involved in something harmless.

---------------------------------------------------- Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it's over they have the same positions they started in.

The Pentagon says...

Yeah...um...there are possible incidents of...uhh...y'know...terrorist plots...and...uhhhhhhhhhhh-OH SH!T! WATCH OUT FOR THAT GOBLIN! F*CKING BITCH ASS F*CKING F*CK! F*CK! C#CK ASS MOTHER BITCH F*CK!!! YEAH! F*CK YOU !!!!!! CAN'T ROLL WITH THE DARK ELF, HUH? YEAH!!!

 

Uhh, anyway...yeah...there may be ...terror...stuff. Yeah.

 

Terror indeed...

 

 

-Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! For information on games and psychology, look up: Jonathan Freedman(2002)Block & Crain(2007) Just to name a few...

Reality/////////////////////////////////////Fantasy. Seems like a pretty thick line to me...

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

THIS JUST IN: Terrorists can talk privately amoungst themselves to plan an attack.  "They don't need technology, all they need are tongues", warns the Secretary of Defense.  Security experts everywhere are concerned.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

GP beat me to it. I was going to bring up about PGP encrypted emails.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

 I think people are overreacting to this a bit.

The goal of the presentation was not to go 'OMG TERRORISTS ARE DOING THIS!' or other hysterics.. it was just a proof of concept for how something could be done via a technology that the bulk of the people attending the confrence are not familiar with.

There are lots of ways that a cell can organize.  But dismissing one particular way with the idea 'well, there are other ways!' doesn't make much sense, esp since those examples also fall under the catagory of 'why would they use PGP or stenography when disposible cell phones exist!'

Part of the job of people like this is to show all the myrid of ways things could pan out so that the community is not comletely with it's pants down if someone DOES decide to go that route.  Knowledge is not a bad thing.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

"Proof of concept" things sound like they should only be a low priority, but this feels like pork-barrel spending to me. Is it possible for terrorists to plot in WoW? Definitely. But is it practical to explore? Not very.

And the way this concept was carried out was not very good. They only took one approach as to how a cell might organize in an MMO. They didn't take in account private chat, private hacked WoW servers, and other ways that a cell could've used to discuss incognito. You don't even need to be technically proficient to hack up your own server...I'm sure they can outsource this quick job for cheap.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Well yes, this was only one approach, but keep in mind all this discussion is over a single powerpoint presentation given at a single talk at a single confrence.  Such presentations usually only go over a simplified concept or a brief overview of something.

And even if something is a low prioirty, that isn't a reason to not do it.  Low priority stuff needs to be looked into too.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Is there going to be a subsequent study to follow up on blizzard being a front for a terrorist cell and how they are intent on destroying the entirety of civilzation by having us all mindlessly addicted to the game, neglecting our jobs until civilization fails completely???

 

 

 

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Pentagon-funded, huh? Man, I'm so happy my tax money is being spent so well!

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Don't worry, this is all funded by your kids. Republicans don't actually tax when they increase spending (even though, on average, they've raised the budget by twice as much, adjusting for inflation), they just cut taxes and let the kids pay for it.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Terrorists playing WoW would have better chances in finding 72 virgins than in carrying out an attack.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Indeed. I don't think the quaran mentions anything about these virgins being fit or female. Suckers!

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

My brain hurts now.

"I'm not responcabel fer my comuter's spleling errnors." -- Xlorep DarkHelm

"I'm stel not responcabel fer my comuter's spleling errnors." -- Xlorep DarkHelm

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

This ranks up there with people who claim that the CIA secretly put chips in our brains while we sleep at night.

M. Carusi

Capitol Gaming

http://capitolgaming.blogspot.com

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

When they say those newfangled video games will be the death of civilization they really mean it.

---------------------------------------------------- Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it's over they have the same positions they started in.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Could they even go so far as to say any of the "Civilization" games could be training simulations for taking over the world?  I understand that is total BS..but apparently there are some well paid people that think otherwise.

Zen aka Jeremy Powers
Editor and Host of the Zenspath Podcast (now on iTunes)
www.ZensPath.com
XBL: "PsychoticZen" PSN: "Zenspath"
Nintendo Network: "Psychoticzen", 3DS: "0860-3238-7260

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

I think China would...they banned historical games for producing scenarios that are not aligned to the current state of the Chinese government.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Wow, no one has yet to clue in that this guy is really just looking to have the Pentagon greenlight him playing WOW as his job. Wrath of the Lich King is due out in less than 2 months!

If he actually succeeds to get funding to "monitor potential terrorist activity in World of Warcraft" all I have to say is, "Dude, you don't need a research assistant, do you?"

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

So... a couple Pentagon researchers want an excuse to play World of Warcraft and get paid for it (by American taxpayers, no less)... to help keep our country safe?

I smell a plot, all right...

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Living the dream man, living the dream.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Lol, I'd so take a job like that

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Finally a plot that everyone can agree that the government is a part of!

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

damn you beat me too it!

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

And the terrorists keep winning. We continue to be fed these doomsday scenarios based around common objects and situations.

When will we stop helping the terrorists in this way.

E. Zachary Knight
http://www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

I think people are overreacting to this a bit.

The goal of the presentation was not to go 'OMG TERRORISTS ARE DOING THIS!' or other hysterics.. it was just a proof of concept for how something could be done via a technology that the bulk of the people attending the confrence are not familiar with.

There are lots of ways that a cell can organize.  But dismissing one particular way with the idea 'well, there are other ways!' doesn't make much sense, esp since those examples also fall under the catagory of 'why would they use PGP or stenography when disposible cell phones exist!'

Part of the job of people like this is to show all the myrid of ways things could pan out so that the community is not comletely with it's pants down if someone DOES decide to go that route.  Knowledge is not a bad thing.

Thought I would repost Meeneko's post up here since he said it so well. I'll add a little something of mine as well. People, take your meds. This wasn't some red level terror alert. It was a presentation to just pass in some "what if" scenarios. They aren't coming for your games. Chill out.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

The irony is there have been FAR more ppl killed by LIGHTNING than terrorist attacks.. but hey worrying about lightning and being scared to leave the house isnt fashionable.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Maybe when the 100 year war against the mostly imaginary enemy has been won. Till then, it's pretty profitable to keep the nightmare alive and expand it in as many ways as possible.

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

Give it time.  Soon anything they don't like/agree with/or understand will be a "possible terror threat" of some sort.  It's just another way to garnish control from people via fear.

Zen aka Jeremy Powers
Editor and Host of the Zenspath Podcast (now on iTunes)
www.ZensPath.com
XBL: "PsychoticZen" PSN: "Zenspath"
Nintendo Network: "Psychoticzen", 3DS: "0860-3238-7260

Re: Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke

I agree, paranoia like this only takes authorities away from the real problems and wastes the government's time and resources.

 
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Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
Matthew Wilsonok than they should not protest when the consequences of that choice occur.04/17/2014 - 1:06pm
NeenekoIf people want tall buildings, plenty of other cities with them. Part of freedom and markets is communities deciding what they do and do not want built in their collective space.04/17/2014 - 12:55pm
Sora-ChanI realize that they have ways getting around it, but one reason might be due to earthquakes.04/17/2014 - 4:42am
Matthew WilsonSF is a tech/ economic/ trade center it should be mostly tail building. this whole problem is because of the lack of tail buildings. How would having tail apartment buildings destroy SF? having tail buildings has not runed other cities around the US/world04/16/2014 - 10:51pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the issue is you can not build upwards anywhere in SF at the moment, and no you would not. You would bring prices to where they should have been before the market distortion. those prices are not economic or socially healthy.04/16/2014 - 10:46pm
ZippyDSMleeYou still wind up pushing people out of the non high rise aeras but tis least damage you can do all things considered.04/16/2014 - 10:26pm
ZippyDSMleeANd by mindlessly building upward you make it like every place else hurting property prices,ect,ect. You'll have to slowly segment the region into aeras where you will never build upward then alow some aeras to build upward.04/16/2014 - 10:25pm
Matthew WilsonSF have to build upwards they have natural growth limits. they can not grow outwards. ps growing outwards is terable just look at Orlando or Austin for that.04/16/2014 - 4:15pm
ZippyDSMleeIf they built upward then it would becoem like every other place making it worthless, if they don't build upward they will price people out making it worthless, what they need to do is a mix of things not just one exstreme or another.04/16/2014 - 4:00pm
Matthew Wilsonyou know the problem in SF was not the free market going wrong right? it was government distortion. by not allowing tall buildings to be build they limited supply. that is not free market.04/16/2014 - 3:48pm
ZippyDSMleeOh gaaa the free market is a lie as its currently leading them to no one living there becuse they can not afford it makign it worthless.04/16/2014 - 3:24pm
Matthew WilsonIf you have not read http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/04/introducing-steam-gauge-ars-reveals-steams-most-popular-games/ you should. It is a bit stats heavy, but worth the read.04/16/2014 - 2:04pm
Matthew Wilsonthe issue is when is doesn't work it can screw over millions in new york city's case. more often than not it is better to let the free market run its course without market distortion.04/16/2014 - 9:36am
NeenekoTrue, and overdone stagnation is a problem. It is a tricky balance. It does not help that when it does work, no one notices. Most people here have benifited from rent controls and not even realized it.04/16/2014 - 9:23am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/04/15/riaa_files_civil_suit_against_megaupload04/16/2014 - 8:48am
 

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