back to article To fel with you! There's an NSA spook in my World of Warcraft

The NSA placed spies in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft in a bid to tackle info-swapping terrorists, it has emerged. According to the latest leaked document published by The Guardian, spooks were stationed in the virtual world of Azeroth and told to “hide in plain sight". The NSA briefing …


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  1. Scott Pedigo

    What? No Everquest 2 or Planetside 2 Spying?

    It's a sad day for Sony I guess, when the spooks don't think there are enough users in these now free-to-play games to make it worth spying on them.

    On the bright side, hackers still think it is worthwhile to hack into the Sony servers to steal usernames and passwords.

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: What? No Everquest 2 or Planetside 2 Spying?

      Not just the spooks. Any press release at all that mentions MMOs don't think anybody will know what they're on about if they mentioned PS2 or EQ2 because Sony never saw fit to advertise them properly (nobody has a clue what I'm on about when I tell them how I spend my spare time) so they say "WoW" as people have at least seen adverts on telly for it.

      I've seen trolls (not the playable race kind) on EQ2 pretend they're the Feds but that's about it.

      1. EPurpl3

        Re: What? No Everquest 2 or Planetside 2 Spying?

        Darn, I saw a suspicious guy on Guild Wars 2 last night, he was green and he had fire pooping from his butt. I could bet he was a terrorist :d

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What? No Everquest 2 or Planetside 2 Spying?

          All the proper dodgy folk are in the port side playing wizardry.

        2. Euripides Pants

          Re: What? No Everquest 2 or Planetside 2 Spying?

          "he was green and he had fire pooping from his butt. I could bet he was a terrorist"

          Or he had a curry and 5 beers...

  2. Eradicate all BB entrants

    They wouldn't have picked up ....

    ..... anything useful on the Trade channel ..... its like 4chan with graphics.

    1. Bottle_Cap

      Re: They wouldn't have picked up ....

      Lowest prices for gold! 1000g for $12...

    2. Fibbles

      Re: They wouldn't have picked up ....

      /w Bottle_cap I can have 1g plz?

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      /w Bottle_cap I can have 1g plz?

      /w Bottle_cap I can have 1g plz?

      /w Bottle_cap I can have 1g plz?

      /w Bottle_cap I can have 1g plz?

      /w Bottle_cap I can have 1g plz?

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  3. jai

    Wasn't there a NCIS episode about exactly this?

    Sometimes fact is stranger, or at least, exactly the same, as fiction...

  4. jai

    a cunning plan

    Was this not just someone's bright idea of getting paid to play games while at work? It's awesome - you can probably spend all weekend gringing to level up AND put in a claim for overtime as well!! Where do i sign up to join?

    1. John70

      Re: a cunning plan

      If there are any job openings, I'll sign up...

    2. Fibbles

      Re: a cunning plan

      I love the idea that some spook somewhere has convinced their superiors that they need the Mists of Pandaria expansion to better spy on the Chinese.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: a cunning plan

      Its not all fun and games, what with polite requests to twink your boss' spoiled 12 year old son, and having to explain to the hot redhead in counterintelligence that yes, you spend all your time playing WoW, but you're doing it for the red, white and blue....

      Then again, maybe you can play the sympathy angle with the redhead-"We wiped so many times on Lich King. (Sniffle) many good men gone! (sob) really changes your perspective on what's important in life...."

    4. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: a cunning plan

      Why the hell would they be playing? I'd imagine that they'd just patch into the chat servers and create fake names on the channel like tech support / admins would do.

      Of course this assumes that Blizzard actually designed the server architecture logically...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a cunning plan

        They'd probably of been noticed if they did that (by blizzard at least) also it did say hide in plain sight which would imply as players.

  5. Rob

    Nice job...

    ... if you can get it, being paid by the government to play online games, they even have their subs paid for them!

    I bet the 'de-confliction' team is really there to sort out disputes between NSA guilds rather than who is spying on who.

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: Nice job...

      Here I was thinking the 'de-confliction' teams was to make it easier to spy on NSA players. You never know if one of them is a double agent and conveniently using WoW to transfer information to their handler. Then again it could be to prevent anyone spying on the latest talks between Obama and Kim Jong Un.

      1. Mephistro

        Re: Nice job...

        "... I was thinking the 'de-confliction' teams was to make it easier to spy on NSA players. You never know if one of them is a double agent..."

        That way lies madness! ;0)

      2. JR
        Big Brother

        Re: Nice job...

        Reminds me of a line from Monty Python & the Holy Grail...

        Guard (agent): Oh, yes of course. I thought you meant him! (to other Guard/agent) You know it seemed a bit daft me having to guard him when he's a guard.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    The world is now a Philip K. Dick novel

    Only with more boredom, inanity and death.

    Must be nice to have a paid job hanging around in WoW looking for terrists. Any info on the mean age of WOW SPY GROUP?

  7. John70

    Were they all playing Rogues?

    1. 404

      yep - I still think it takes a special kind of person to play a rogue effectively... sneaky bastiches. Would totally fit the persona.

  8. Colin Millar

    Here's the plan

    1) Massive campaign to get all fanatics addicted to WoW - distribute copies of the game as "Blowing shit up for dummies"

    2) Lots of spooks follow them in - in accordance with CPGB rules from the 60's I think it has to be 20 spooks per nutjob.

    3) Open global pizza delivery and adult nappy changing service

    4) Triple whammy - Profit, peace and freedom from oppression!!!!

  9. Syntax Error

    Playing Games

    Is spooks the right description? Kids playing games and getting paid to do it.

  10. DrXym

    Hardly surprising

    WoW and other MMOs could facilitate two physically disconnected people holding a conversation about something illegal. So it's not hard to see why the NSA would want to monitor it.

    That said, anyone using such a high profile, fat client MMO run by a US company such as WoW is not doing it right. I bet there are dozens of free to play MMOs, many which launch from a web browser which would be far a better choice. Or IRC. Or some random forum. Or some random comment section (e.g. here) would be a better way to exchange messages.

    1. Tachikoma

      Re: Hardly surprising

      Yeah, everyone knows all the kiddy fiddlers play Tera

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hardly surprising

      The yellow duck is unDer the ivy tea leaves.

      Anonymous, but they said to say, "you would know me by my hat".

    3. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Hardly surprising

      "Or some random comment section (e.g. here) would be a better way to exchange messages"

      Given how much sense "aManFromMars" tends to make in his average posts, I'm guessing its already happening.

      1. Matt 21

        Re: Hardly surprising

        Listen very carefully, I will say this only once..............

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I heard that ...

    everyone on 4chan is a NSA employee ... what's next, infiltrating and the Daily Mail ... have these people no shame?

  12. Tachikoma

    Hear that? that's the sound of every IT security bod in the known worlds drafting up a "security" business proposal to bring their gaming rig into the office.

  13. Duffy Moon

    Can you imagine what the normal chat to criminal/terrorist ratio must be? Are they going to spy on every server? Every instance group? Impossible! What about all the other games? Private, passworded servers on COD for example?

    I think time and money might be better spent elsewhere.

    1. frank ly

      They are going to go flat out to recruit patriotic volunteers.

      "Are you involved in criminal/terrorist activities?" - "No Sir!" - "OK, you are now an NSA deputy. Stay in touch"

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Duffy Moon

      ".....Are they going to spy on every server? Every instance group? Impossible!....." You haven't been following how the NSA/GCHQ chaps work, have you? I bet there is either a back door built into WoW or their chat servers have been hacked to allow automated surveillance, so no need to have an actual warm body listening in to every conversation. I suspect the warm bods then get given target lists of guilds or individual players to get chummie with off the back of automated eavesdropping. For example, players joining European or US WoW servers from Pakistan probably go top of the list......

  14. Allan 1

    "Hey guv, its scary. We need to close down WoW urgently. Its a hotbed of therroristht activthy. EVERYONE talks abbout 'nuking the boss' continually!!!"

  15. Bill Gould

    Getting paid, plus a government pension, to play WoW (or whatever). What kind of metrics do they use? "I finally got that super rare shoulder drop in XYZ raid... Oh, and I reported a gold seller/terrorist."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm guessing you're not from the UK. A government pension might once have been better than the private sector but not these days, we're having to pay for all the long retired employees who are on "Gold-Plated" pensions.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As someone who took a job that lets me accrue a civil service pension nearly 2 years ago, I can tell you they're fairly generous. The accrual rate is 1/43, although it is career average instead of final salary. I'm paying about 6% of my pay into it, and the actual value of the pension (the amount I'd have to put into a private pension to get the same benefits) is about 25% of my pay - so I'm not complaining!

        Other areas of government may be less generous...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sorry to say...

        ... some of us are still entitled to the Final Salary pension (Gold Plated) because of the date when we signed up to it (for now that is).

        It's the only thing that's worthwhile in this job, sorry for not having more regret about it.

  16. Maharg

    What about Puffin Party?

    I thought all terror buddies used it, it was in that documentry, 4 Lions...

  17. Stevie


    You want to see a prime example of a digital drop box (in the espionage sense) you need look no further than Amazon.

    How else to explain stuff like this:

    or this:

    1. Gav

      Re: Bah!

      People trying/testing things without a test system to do it on?

      Just create a obviously fake listing on some obscure publication that no-one is going to take you up on.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      "I speak Esperanto like a native" (Spike Milligan).

  18. Crisp

    By Grabthar's hammer!

    That's one hell of a headline! :)

  19. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    The NSA spies also infiltrated EVE Online. But they all left several days later, crying...

    1. Toothpick

      .... That's after their 14 day trial expired

    2. fearnothing

      Wait, GoonSwarm aren't an NSA front?

  20. Vociferous

    MMORPGs may not need spooks...

    ...but they do need cops.

    I'm male, but typically play with female avatars because, well, they're easier on the eyes. I once made a female avatar which I gave a real-sounding name. I virtually got a virtual conga-line of pedos trying to groom me whenever I was in town.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MMORPGs may not need spooks...

      Why do you say pedos? Was your avatar a little girl, or do you mean you're underage in real life?

      1. Vociferous

        Re: MMORPGs may not need spooks...

        I say pedos because it was obvious that they were grown men thinking I was a little girl.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MMORPGs may not need spooks...

          What are you playing? Hello Kitty?

          1. Vociferous

            Re: MMORPGs may not need spooks...

            Guild wars.

            Why are you posting as AC?

  21. M Gale

    "Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments"

    Something in that sentence made me think of aManFromMars.

    Though I'm sure the Martian (MartAIn?) has something semi-coherent to say about the whole affair.

  22. mafoo

    Second Life

    This revelation has the terrorists quaking in their fur suits

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Second Life

      Quite possibly. To be honest I would be more surprised to find out that people like Osama bin Laden or Muqtada al Sadr WEREN'T perverts.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Xbox Live.

    Handy that every Xbox One comes included with a camera that can't be disabled...

    1. dssf

      Re: Xbox Live. Kolaidafish?

      Hell, try affixing a fish-eye lens, or a kaleidescope. Keep the watchers bizzzy-as-beeezzz, hahahaha...

      Or, FORCE ms to go into a new end-dust-stree.... SEXBOX--- Play naked, with a partner. That'll force the watchers to devise some cunning software to block out the cunning hardware...

      (No, not trying to become a cunning linguist, hahahaha)...

      However, I doubt the either ms or the share holders want to ass-so-ci-ate ms' name with the sex therapy industry. Howevver, some en(d)(t)er prizing psychs and devs joining forcess could ass-pire to endtroughduce some tantillating and titilizing software titles. Talk about merging hardware and software on new levels, and levels... Even Guiness Book of World Records might get sucked into it.

    2. M Gale

      Re: Xbox Live.

      From what I'm aware, compulsory kinect is one of many things that Microsoft have backpedalled from on the XB One.

      That'll be in the XB One Two instead then, I guess. And every sequel until people stop complaining about it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Xbox Live.

        It's only a temporary one, the fact it's in the box means it will be back to mandatory one day...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They needed a good laugh

    Seeing the morons who play these games is good for a laugh.

  25. dssf

    Teletubbies FPS

    Lala BOOM!

    Tinky-Winky BLAST

    koo-kooo, kooo-koooo,

    khuurrrhhrr, khuurrrhhuurrr

    After two weeks of infiltration assinment on the world server of a Teletubbies First Person Shooter meets WOW or COD, the NSA analysts will go anal list, taking early retirement due to psychological stress, hehehehe. Or, if denied leave or early retirement, they'll be playing in a hyperbaric chamber with altitutude settings to provide for on-the-fly attitude adjustments, along with mandatory use of anti-psychotics and a batch of muscle relaxers, to prevent lung collapse due to excess laughter and whimper episodes...

    No, wait, that would just cause creation of new legislation about not using childish avatars/costumes to express, participate in, or glamorize violence. After all, IIRC, it's illegal to make cartoon pron that uses purely digital minors. So, do NOT say I inspired anyone to actually fund, create, enable, and distribute a TTCOD/TTWOW global gaming bazaar, hehehe...

    SHIT, I think **I** will need they hb chamber... I'm seeing tinky, lala, and the others bounding and waddling over those knolls and in the valleys lobbing grenades and rainbow sprites in my eyes... sigh....

  26. Matt_payne666

    I has a go on second life once... never found anyone as interesting as a spy, terrorist or even anyone close to that... was I just in a dull part of the world, or do they ignore noobs!

    1. Vociferous

      > was I just in a dull part of the world

      Depends on your definition of dull -- there's only furries in Second Life.

  27. Stretch


  28. JP19

    WoW - wow

    There are a zillion free to play online games which don't require you to leave a money trail from a subscription and are much less likely to record or inspect or keep chat logs.

    Why would anyone (including the dumbest terrorist) looking to online games for secure communication choose WoW?

    How would a player standing around in the game world hope to intercept private chat anyway?

  29. Alien Doctor 1.1

    Oh well...

    if they view my guilds' comments in Neverwinter then I guess there will be 550+ arrests on the books.

    We're a small (only 550+ members, not all active) guild but love taking the piss out of each other; the enessay can read into it what they will, but we're only playing a fucking game - although I'm sure some comments about taking down the big bastards with my new missiles (most of us are running with the new hunter/ranger archery class) could provoke them into a first strike against Lord Neverember. Fucking Orcs - or should that be Norcs or Narcs?).

  30. arctic_haze
    Black Helicopters


    The Internet version of MS Checkers will never be the same after this piece of news.

    1. Old Handle

      Re: OMG

      Why do you think they only let you send predefined messages in the first place?

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. btrower

      Re: They got me

      Re:"Will my door get kicked in or will I get drugged and questioned?"

      Done already. Your memory was erased.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reds Under the Bed 2.0

    Clearly, life was a lot easier for the swivel eyed when all you had to do was lift that sort of skirt thing your Mother (inexplicably) put round the bed for the dastardly "enemy" and his vile plot to create a more equal world (via the odd route of making it rather more unequal for some) to be exposed.

    The modern world delivers not only a bewildering plethora of fanatical enemies equally swivel-eyed to the spooks (and not all of whom are conveniently bearded for easy ID), but a complex threat environment in which the bed analogy is no longer adequate and has to be extended to cover not only most other household fixtures and fittings, but virtual worlds and their accoutrements too. It must be hard for those whose view of the world is as jaundiced as the NSA and GCHQ to see anything as not being a potential hotbed of terrorists, religio-nutters, foreign spy networks, media pirates or other general wrongthinkers.

    What next? Perverts under the Playstation? Jihadis in the Javascript? Hackers in the herbaceous border? Dog walkers as a suspect cover for the Militant Wing of the Ramblers association Death Commando in training? We should be told!!

  33. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Monitoring suspected terrorist communications networks within MMORPGs. At least that's what they tell the boss when they get caught playing WoW on company time.

  34. fredds

    The Horde must be terrorists, they speak in code all the time, eg.

    Ogg thak drgg blah.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if they tried to spy on eve, but gave up as its crazy

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    even better. Do they join minecraft servers to spy on the chat.

    Can see the report about green camoflage exploding suicide shrubs.....

  37. Gordon Pryra


    Why the hell would terrorists talk about terrorist stuff in Public chat?

    Would they not

    user a private channel?

    quild or group chat?

    Im guessing there has been some sexying up of the facts here. More likely some NSA spooks asked Blizzard to give them access to the chat servers then exported any conversations when they looked interesting.

    I doubt these servers keep backups for long, so I am making an assumption here that sone of the Snowdenesq realtime data capture tools would be needed,

  38. foo_bar_baz

    Should monitor every single FPS server as well then

    I was playing CS:GO on a French server not too long ago, which had a guy screaming long streams of what sounded like Arabic into his microphone. I'm not sure if it was a player damning us to hell or a jihadi giving directions to his agents, probably both.

  39. CommanderGalaxian

    What a bunch of idiots. Everybody knows terrorists are all on "Puffin Party"!

  40. Goit

    We have two Saudi's in our guild, if they balls up in a raid and cause us to wipe again, I'm reporting them to the NSA to drone strike the f*ckers!

  41. Identity
    Black Helicopters



  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I always used to assume a CS server would be the best place for terrorists to hide their chats about bombing and hostages in plain sight, to the extent that due to my love of the AK as weapon of choice (and hence the obvious side to take) I got quite nervous as I wanted to go into the military aircraft industry. Having friends openly e-mail me discussing games and refering to me as the "Guru of Terrorism" would probably adversely affect any security clearance investigations!

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't care about NSA...

    But if I find some Delta Rangers or Marines that can join my Lfrs...

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