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

If anything in stonetalon gave 110 gold and "234" silver.... it'd be camped day in and day out. This is paranoia, nothing else to see here, move along.

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

It should also be noted that those names as they currently appear couldn't even exist within WoW....

But I think these intel guys should realize that it's harder than hell to glean information from MMOs or online games in general.  Some much shit is spewed out... everything from racist remarks to absolute shock statements.  I don't think you could even tell what is real and what isn't.

Dragonspine Trophy anyone?

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

i think i smell.... bush fueled parnionia? anybody else feel that way /:|

Jesus Jack Jones Thompson told me to do it!

Jesus Jack Jones Thompson loves you, so kill for his amusement so we can get money for the new "People's Temple of Jesus Jack Jones Thompson"

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

Um couldn't someone just use alternative words to mean "Go Blow up the White House" in other things besides a MMO?

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

Excuse me, but if I were a memeber of a terrorist cell I wouldn't use the General chat function, nor would I /yell in the center of Ironforge.

Honestly, how are "undercover operatives" going to listen in on an /tell or /party?

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

Porn Terrorist Ad or chat:
Go blow the white stuff with the...

Or they could be smart enough to come up with a system that was set up before hand that uses certain letters, like the first, last, or the 23rd, and start back at the beginning of the word if there isnt enough letters.  Then using different languages mixed together, invert the letters in each word and every third word be switch with the word 2 words before it.  It is all stuff the CIA knows pretty well.  They even use it.  They even have a statue in the courtyard of their building that uses it, and no one has EVER decoded the last segment of the statue.  The only person that knows what the last part is, is the guy who made it for them, but he hasn't even told the CIA what it is, haha.

It is pretty cool stuff though, there are computer programs out there to decode and encode messages too, or you can convert letters to binary... I used to do that for the hell of it and see if anyone would take the time to figure it out... no one ever did... (therefore, I am a loser, but I can live with that fact)

 
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