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World of Warcraft: Terrorists and Virtual Worlds


U.S. Homeland Security linking to new “security” reports that rely on Australian virtual world ‘terrorism’ reports from 2 years ago.

As an avid World of Warcraft player – Level 80 Fire Mage on Feathermoon, if you please – I am always astounded and immensely amused by the crapola that is said about the game. Anything from playing in a guild with 400 people and organising raids makes one ‘anti-social’ and ‘lacking in communication skills’ through to this little treasure, that terrorists can plot and connive in World of Warcraft as a practical training tool for evil. This sort of rubbish is now rippling out  from Australian High Tech Crime Centre to USA Homeland Security who in turn are passing it on, thru their blog: 

Kevin Zuccato, head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre in Canberra, says terrorists can gain training in games such as World of Warcraft in a simulated environment, using weapons that are identical to real-world armaments… (from Spies Watch Rise of Virtual Terrorists by Natalie O’Brien of news.com.au who gets it all wrong). 

I was laughing at the Zuccato quote, from two years ago, with Gary Hayes who has just written a brilliant piece on longevity of stupidity and how ripples of social media can make it  into Parliament Question Time. So I thought I would stop virtual fishing (Sundays are fishing days in World of Warcraft) and show you just how ludicrous this statement was. Yes I know it’s two years on, and the report Homeland Security links to is from February but hey! it’s a slow news day in the SilkCharm Media Empire. 

World of Warcraft: Weapon of Mass Distraction
World of Warcraft: Weapon of Mass Distraction - foto Gary Hayes

As you can see, World of Warcraft weapons “are identical to real-world armaments”. Top left is a cross bow by the way, favoured mostly in countries with lots of trees…. *rolls eyes*. 

Be afwaid be wery afwaid.
Be afwaid be wery afwaid - foto Gary Hayes

These marvels of modern engineering are only available to terrorists in World of Warcraft. The real world will soon catch up – Armored Ostriches FTW! 

WoW Insider
WoW Insider

of course, they may have jumped the digital divide, hopped from virtual world to virtual world and now be seeking someone on the US servers, not the Oceanic ones. 

No guns, just games
Games Do Not Kill, Guns Do.

Games Do Not Kill, Guns Do – but tell that to Homeland Security who came out with a white paper a couple of months ago that yes, quotes Kevin Zuccato (page 3) saying: 

Also in July 2007, Kevin Zuccato, the head of the Australian High Tech Crime Center in Canberra, suggested that terrorists can train in a simulated environment such as World of Warcraft using weapons that are identical to real-world armaments 

… Intelligence gathered from non-game players, me thinks. 

So, have a look at this from the pdf:

If WoW was Washington and mages were soldiers
If WoW was Washington and mages were soldiers - click for full text discussion

Two World of Warcraft players, WAR_MONGER and TALON238, discuss a raid on the “White Keep” inside the “Stone Talon Mountains.” The objective is to use a “Dragon Fire spell” and steal several pieces of treasure. However, if the World of Warcraft map is overlaid with a map of Washington, D.C., the “White Keep” becomes the White House and “Come in South East of the Zoram Strand” becomes an approach path along Pennsylvania Avenue. “

The day that Homeland Security relies on a report that quotes extensively from a 2 year old report from Natalie O’Brien of news.com.au is the day we are all in trouble.  At least I’m assuming the rest of the inaccuracies in the original article are her doing.

Perhaps the line that made the most sense, from COPRISK was this:

Internet and security experts are not familiar with virtual worlds, have not researched them extensively, and are now playing catch-up to determine if and how terrorists and criminals are using this new internet phenomenon. 

Completely agree.  Virtual worlds CAN be used as resources for collaboration of all kind, but mimicking physical world spaces and armaments is just barmy. Especially Dorothy worlds that don’t allow for much manipulation of the pixel environment. From The Washington Post

The new report also discusses a program called Reynard, which it describes as “a seedling effort.” It began by studying the feasibility of monitoring activity in virtual worlds and online games to attempt modeling of what terrorist activity in those worlds would look like in the real world.

Can a ‘real investigative journalist’ find out more about Reynard? I’m heading back into World of Warcraft to fish and pick herbs. For my country, you understand. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). If I see or hear anything untoward, I will make sure I log out in the inn and report it immediately.

For those of you who don’t play World of Warcraft, it would be immoral and unpatriotic of me not to give you some tips: 

Terrorists in World of Warcraft learn skills of blending in.
Masters of Disguise - Terrorists in World of Warcraft learn skills of blending in - foto Gary Hayes

Mastering the art of disguise is an in world skill. But we know, don’t we, that all terrorists choose dastardly dwarves and gnomes as their avatars. 

.... behind you!
Have You Seen This Man? Errr Avatar? .... behind you! - foto Gary Hayes

Now that you’ve been warned, and you can identify what these terrorists look like, their weapons that are “identical to real world armaments” and their mode of transport, I expect that we’ll start to see calls coming in to our intelligence services any day now. And no, don’t go and get your guild so you can pwn the terrorists n00b ass and get phat lewt. 

Pictures by Gary Hayes

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

20 thoughts on “World of Warcraft: Terrorists and Virtual Worlds

  1. You’re kidding me. The Washington Post is resurfacing Reynard, a year after Wired erroneously reported on it? I wrote about Reynard–and other programs under the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency–at http://ariwriter.com/meet-iarpa-queen-of-government-20/

    In that post, about halfway down, I quote a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to Congress, particularly, “As the intelligence community seeks to use new tools, techniques, and approaches to keep the country safe, so too the ODNI must develop and use new tools, techniques and approaches to protect civil liberties and privacy.”

    I’m with you on reporters doing due diligent reporting.

    Ari Herzog’s last blog post..How a Mayor Resists the Core of Government 2.0

  2. I don’t think terrorists will have time to play WoW just to train. Anyway, I also wanna share that I submitted an entry for a contest that can win me 500,000 wow gold just by simply giving a NAME to THE TWITTER PIG! You can try your luck as well, just visit: http://www.wowgoldpigpen.com/twittercontestform/

  3. World of Warcraft: Terrorists and Virtual Worlds | Laurel Papworth- Social Network Strategy: U.S. Homeland Secur.. http://tinyurl.com/nhctjg

  4. So are they gonna sit there and level there toons to 80 and train or are they gonna use the crappy weapons you get at level 1 OMG i heard it all now lol

  5. With the Dec. 7th release of Cataclysm, the C.I.A has learned that the new goblin race will be the toon of choice for Taliban and Al Aaeda. Watch your gnomes.

  6. Customized world of warcraft coffee table!!

    Designed by us, built using solid core composite materials such as a special ‘dye impregnated craft board’, coloured acrylic Perspex and, of course a highly collectible “W.O.W.” (World Of Warcraft) server fitted just under the toughened clear float glass top.

    http://renownedfurniture.com.au/custom-made/world-warcraft-coffee-table/

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