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December 9, 2013 5:49 AM   Subscribe


 
NSA is OP, pls nerf
posted by fight or flight at 5:53 AM on December 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


Barbarians. They have literally become barbarians.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:04 AM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


"Infiltrate" seems a little too strong a word for paying a monthly subscription and logging in along with ~8 million other people.
posted by Foosnark at 6:07 AM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


Now I'm picturing Evony ads reading "Inflitrate now, my lord!"
posted by Foosnark at 6:07 AM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Think twice before you teabag, kids. It could be a NSA operative, and the next thing you know--extraordinary rendition.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:08 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


You gotta think there's somebody out there who's spending their 40 hour work weeks playing WoW on your your dime, then going home and laughing their ass off.
posted by tyllwin at 6:09 AM on December 9, 2013 [35 favorites]


Wouldn't it be idiotic not to be able to do surveillance in these new environments? I mean, these are not just games, they're channels of communication, they're economies, they're a way for people from all over the world to hang out together. Assuming that every one of multiple millions of players has only the most decent intentions seems pretty ridiculous.
posted by MrVisible at 6:09 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Foosnark: "Now I'm picturing Evony ads reading "Inflitrate now, my lord!""

"This [REDACTED] is just for you, my lord!"
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:12 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


What exactly are they doing about the terrorist gatecamps in EVE? The CIA and FBI are useless.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:14 AM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


BREAKING: CIA breaks up terrorist plot against International Criminal Court; 25 attackers planned "heroic" raid on ICC leadership
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 6:16 AM on December 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Wouldn't it be idiotic not to be able to do surveillance in these new environments?

I suppose EVE online players are potentially society-destroying moral monsters, but in practice it's a self-contained community. Undermining real-world institutions just doesn't present enough of a challenge, not compared to dueling with each other. If the CIA was in their league the Soviets would have woken up one morning to discover that their banking system had collapsed and half of their nuclear arsenal had been mysteriously stolen while simultaneously most of their navy defected to Switzerland.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:18 AM on December 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


Wouldn't it be idiotic not to be able to do surveillance in these new environments?

Indeed. How else are they going to figure out who is gay? Or who's fucking whose mothers?
posted by Naberius at 6:27 AM on December 9, 2013 [23 favorites]


Yeah, seriously sir, I'm telling you, the terrorists are all over these networks and the only way to stop them is for you to pay me to sit at home in my basement, in my underwear, eating cheetos all day and PLAY THESE GAMES!!1!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:28 AM on December 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


I can't stop laughing at this:

so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions

If it's strictly surveillance, why didn't they just reassign a bunch of them to Club Penguin?
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:39 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't know Second Life still existed.
posted by discopolo at 6:41 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


"That's Special Agent Jenkins to you, n00b."
posted by Etrigan at 6:49 AM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]



I thought there was somethings suspicious about that Leeroy Jenkins guy.


Damn! Missed the window by one minute.
posted by Herodios at 6:53 AM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just because you have a right to Assembly, doesn't mean every 3 letter agency won't come to your assembly. And take some notes.
posted by DigDoug at 7:09 AM on December 9, 2013


Wouldn't it be idiotic not to be able to do surveillance in these new environments? I mean, these are not just games, they're channels of communication, they're economies, they're a way for people from all over the world to hang out together. Assuming that every one of multiple millions of players has only the most decent intentions seems pretty ridiculous.

By that rationale, the FBI, CIA and NSA should also target bake sales, AA meetings, and churches.

It's become very obvious that the three-letter agencies have a fairly simple psych profile of their own:
  1. Obsession: rather than being seen for what it was - as a failure of communication within the government to prevent a terrorist attack - 9/11 has been reframed as "we didn't have enough information. If we had eyes everywhere, this wouldn't have happened." Which has led to:
  2. Hoarding: the utter conviction that there's got to be something valuable in the petabytes of data collected, something that justifies the billions of dollars spent. So we can't ever, ever throw it away, we've got to grab as much as possible, because there might be something there that signals the next terrorist plot, even if we can't see it now. Which triggers:
  3. Paranoia: no-one wants to be blamed for the next 9/11. Congressmen need re-election, and no-one wants to be the official tarred with "he made America weaker by witholding funds from our intelligence agencies". The agencies use this to essentially gain free rein in information gathering and analysis.
To be clear: no one arm of government has completely bad intentions in any of this. But it's created a perennially-sustained, deeply paranoid intelligence apparatus that is the dream of every totalitarian.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 7:10 AM on December 9, 2013 [34 favorites]


"...Hezbollah had produced a game called Special Forces 2..."

Ten bucks? I'll wait for the next Steam sale, thank you.
posted by Xoebe at 7:11 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


By that rationale, the FBI, CIA and NSA should also target bake sales, AA meetings, and churches.

Um, right, that's why they've been infiltrating groups like these for decades.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:18 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I recently saw an FBI-produced counterintelligence training video that was presented as a dramatic performance involving spies meeting up in World of Warcraft.
posted by exogenous at 7:27 AM on December 9, 2013


Do they mostly play rogues on WoW? Or is that a bit too much on the nose?
posted by Mister_A at 7:29 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just read an article yesterday about how morale at the NSA is low and I understand why now. Years of reading MMO chat would destroy anybody's morale.

so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions

This reminds me of those possibly apocryphal stories about the Klan where they'd realize all 5 guys at the meeting were undercover FBI, state police, local police, etc.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:32 AM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


This reminds me of those possibly apocryphal stories about the Klan where they'd realize all 5 guys at the meeting were undercover FBI, state police, local police, etc.

The various movements of the 1960s were said to weed out undercover agents by charging dues at the meetings. Anyone who paid the dues was clearly a fed.
posted by Etrigan at 7:33 AM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


The Bond producers must be thrilled. Their location costs just plummeted, and the whole next movie can be Daniel Craig sitting around in his underwear.
posted by rory at 7:34 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


This reminds me of those possibly apocryphal stories about the Klan where they'd realize all 5 guys at the meeting were undercover FBI, state police, local police, etc.

I don't know about the Klan, but the American Communist Party was essentially majority FBI informant for some period of time.

This MMO thing shouldn't be a surprise. A large, international community with the capacity for moderate levels of anonymity is going to raise some alarm bells for the type of person who works in intelligence.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:35 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, this actually made me remember a few years ago there was a leaked chart going around from the CIA where they were talking about this kind of thing. Like We're going to assemble a "heroic raid" to take down the "dragon" in "Goldshire" and that meant "We're going to attack the Pentagon." It even had a map of Kalimdor or something overlaid with a map of DC. Anyone have a better memory and able to dig that up?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:39 AM on December 9, 2013


I've always assumed that there were spies using WoW and popular MMOs like that to transfer information, it would be a heck of a lot less suspicious than a lot of other network traffic.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:40 AM on December 9, 2013


Metafilter's own cstross has abandoned plans for a third Halting State novel after this news.
posted by rory at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


A sudden interest in games? I wonder how long until they start putting a hold on games, citing various arguments for the security of the state and the status quo.

Though if they ever got caught doing that to Half Life 3 we might actually have youth involvement in the next election.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2013


rory: "Metafilter's own cstross has abandoned plans for a third Halting State novel after this news."

Well you know what they say, truth is stranger, but less pithy, than fiction.
posted by Mister_A at 7:52 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: Yeah, seriously sir, I'm telling you, the terrorists are all over these networks and the only way to stop them is for you to pay me to sit at home in my basement, in my underwear, eating cheetos all day and PLAY THESE GAMES!!1!

It's the best scam ever. Once their dicks turn orange, they can collect a disability pension for life.
posted by dr_dank at 7:54 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ghostride The Whip: “Anyone have a better memory and able to dig that up?”
The ProPublica version of this article has that map as an illustration accompanying the article.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:04 AM on December 9, 2013


Ghostride The Whip: “Anyone have a better memory and able to dig that up?”
And here's the Wired Danger Room article the illustration was pulled from.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:07 AM on December 9, 2013


What exactly are they doing about the terrorist gatecamps in EVE? The CIA and FBI are useless.

Glenn Beck accuses Goonswarm of being a CIA front.

Recording (warning: Glenn Beck)
posted by ryanrs at 8:12 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


the whole next movie can be Daniel Craig sitting around in his underwear.
When this is released on Blu-Ray I know at least three people who would make the average WOW shut-in look like Bear Grylls
posted by fullerine at 8:22 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't it be idiotic not to be able to do surveillance in these new environments?

I had never really considered that people might use WoW or XBox Live to plan terrorist attacks. Is that what they're looking for?
posted by Hoopo at 8:42 AM on December 9, 2013


I think someone has been taking Chris Morris too seriously (but then again there's always a nugget of truth in therE)

I know you delved quite deeply into the details, and that you studied what actually goes on in Jihadi circles, and what goes on in carrying out acts of terrorism. One of the scariest, and funniest aspects is that they actually do use children's chat rooms to communicate. Is it possible that our kids are conversing with terrorists on a daily basis?

Christopher Morris: (Laughs) No! I think this is another good idea that I would be quite happy to sell on for a certain fee. But I would want a good auction. My kids used to go on a website called Club Penguin. I thought, "You know what? If you were planning some secret communications? You could dress up as a cartoon penguin, and talk in a rough code. You'd probably get away with that." You are not allowed to swicky-swear on Club Penguin. Then you are out. As long as you keep it clean, and you communicate around a code that is based on The A-Team or The Simpsons, and you do find that these people do this...They text, and they amateur message, and the email...They have email addresses. There was a guy whose email address was @ilovekyle.com. And there was @kewlankinky. At Google Mail, or something. One cell had a communication system made up entirely of album reviews. There was a U2 album review, and a Chili Peppers review. They discussed Big Brother. That was there code system. Why not?


posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:43 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ridiculous. By what definition is Second Life a "game"?
posted by 1adam12 at 8:53 AM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]






If it turns out the CIA was behind that Fallout 4 hoax I'm going to smash the state.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know, it wasn't long ago when I was sitting in a room full of scientists and managers watching a member of senior management and some technical type screw with our voice meeting thing for about 15 minues, and then sitting through said meeting with a loud and annoying beeps every so often because one or more people hadn't muted themselves (and we couldn't mute them at our end) that I found myself wondering how much we had paid for this enterprise caliber software (I'm guessing five figures), and why we didn't just get ourselves a teamspeak server or 24 DDO accounts because, seriously, gamers wouldn't put up with this level of nonsense. So on the one hand, I'm glad to see the NSA et al have finally gotten to where I was five or six years ago. Great detective work boys.

On the other hand, WoW has 7 million plus subscribers, most of whom are really there to slay the Lich King yet again (as well as bitch about their relationships, jobs, teachers, whatever) so Bruce Schneier has job security in that no one seems to have taken the whole signal to noise / false positive thing to heart.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:29 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


While it's different in some ways... Schneier wrote about this in 2008.
posted by symbioid at 9:39 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The stupid part isn't that these could be avenues for terrorist communication. Sure, anything can be used for that. Why the terrorists aren't obfuscating encrypted data as noise in lol cat videos is beyond me and I see very little that could be done about it if they were. Them's the breaks.

The stupid part is that instead of using old fashioned intelligence and detective work to laser focus on threats, they're doing this collect everything scattershot BS. The entire spectrum of communication is way too wide and way too deep for this strategy to amount to anything but Whack-a-Mole. Just like the ATF entrapment storefronts, this is really just busy work.

How about some community-based policing philosophies instead? It's incredibly depressing that we've spent the past decade and some change alienating Middle Eastern communities in America instead of empowering them to contribute in a meaningful way to public safety. Meanwhile, the terrorist epidemic of young white men with AR-15s won't even show up in this game of comm channel Whack-a-Mole because they work alone, but community policing and relationship building could have turned these guys up in many circumstances. Cho and Holmes, for instance, were all on various folks' radars but it's not like you're going to pick up the phone and work your way through an FBI phone tree to raise a flag if you're a school administrator. But if a local officer has a relationship with your school, you might give them a head's up. Same might go for a mosque or an online community, but none of that will happen because our safety officers have such a reputation for cloak and dagger, authoritarian, closed ranks BS that even average people are wary of participating with them or narcing.
posted by Skwirl at 11:13 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Why the terrorists aren't obfuscating encrypted data as noise in lol cat videos is beyond me and I see very little that could be done about it if they were.

Why do you think the comments on youtube and typical newspaper articles are so goddamn terrible? That rancid race-baiter that never fails to make an Obama-is-a-socialist comment after the local school lunch menu or seemingly randomly calls someone a "fag" after a make-up tutorial video, yeah, that's how Al-Nusra directs it's attacks in Syria.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:26 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


OMG I just realized my new dream career:

EVE online superspy.
posted by Sara C. at 11:36 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


A LIFE OF DANGEROUS SPREADSHEETS.
posted by The Whelk at 11:41 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, DRUID.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:05 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


They should make the NRO's new spy satellite octopus into an in-game boss fight.
posted by homunculus at 12:08 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


At the NSA:

"Yea, boss, there are definitely probably foreign spies exchanging information in WoW. That's why we're playing video games all day at work."
posted by rlio at 12:18 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


What about other games, like KoL?

Are there moles in Mt. McLargeHuge?
posted by winna at 12:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope these agencies have their own internal fandom_wank, and one of these days some wank blows up, so that literally the entire world can point and laugh at their dirty laundry.
posted by fatehunter at 12:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the NSA:

"Yea, boss, there are definitely probably foreign spies exchanging information in WoW. That's why we're playing video games all day at work."


"But you're playing single player games t--" *places finger on boss' lips* "Shhhhhshhhshhh shh... terrorism."
posted by jason_steakums at 1:17 PM on December 9, 2013


"Yea, boss, there are definitely probably foreign spies exchanging information in WoW. That's why we're playing video games all day at work."

"...by the way, we're going to put in a petty cash claim for 4 new Xbox Ones and the new Halo. 'Cos, uh, Al Qaeda, um, uses Covenant avatars in Deathmatches to, uh, plan...stuff?"
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:06 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recently saw an FBI-produced counterintelligence training video that was presented as a dramatic performance involving spies meeting up in World of Warcraft.

The 'movie' is called Betrayed you can watch the trailer. Here is the story behind it from the screenwriter.

I patiently away the torrent and accompanying RiffTrax
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:08 PM on December 9, 2013


"I understand your reluctance to fund such an unorthodox unit, Representatives, but first I think you should hear what these suspected terrorists in Halo deathmatches said about our, and by extension, America's, mother."
posted by jason_steakums at 2:44 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for finding that, MiltonRandKalman. I'm tickled by the John Waters connection.
posted by exogenous at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2013


This means, of course, that in my brief sojourn on Second Life, inspired by people who assured me that it would be a wonderful outlet for my long form ambient music performances, when I struggled mightily with the rendering engine to produce a moderate likeness of myself, the FBI was likely a full witness to my hapless attempt to secure a lifelike penis for my avatar, which became inextricably mounted on my elbow and triggered a desperate and frustrated exodus from the world of online collective "artistry" altogether.

In this online collective, fortunately, I could have lifelike penises mounted on both my elbows and no one would ever know. One can only wonder.
posted by sonascope at 7:41 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: my hapless attempt to secure a lifelike penis for my avatar
posted by The Whelk at 10:44 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I found myself wondering how much we had paid for this enterprise caliber software (I'm guessing five figures), and why we didn't just get ourselves a teamspeak server or 24 DDO accounts because, seriously, gamers wouldn't put up with this level of nonsense.

Big EVE alliances have pretty elaborate IT backends. Mumble voice servers capable of hosting 1,000+ simultaneous users, jabber or irc text chat, forums, specialized project management software to track in-game tasks, GIS-like mapping software, wikis, just tons of infrastructure, a lot of it written in-house.

Single-sign-on and auth software that automatically syncs with the in-game roles is also a really big deal. So if the corp CEO kicks a character in-game, the change is automatically picked and propagated to external services.

Then there is a whole other layer of IP and timestamp analysis to catch spies. Fleet commanders and counter intel guys log known info leaks as they are observed, then server logs are pulled to narrow down suspects. At least one alliance has a private investigator tasked with pursuing high level counter intel.

The in-house "business process software" of the largest EVE alliances is better than what you'll find in most mid-size companies.
posted by ryanrs at 3:20 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm not saying we'd be able to catch an FBI or CIA spy trying to infiltrate my EVE alliance. But it is something we are aware of and we do look for those patterns.
posted by ryanrs at 3:27 AM on December 10, 2013


Actually, now that I think about it, I'd say that top-level EVE spies are almost certainly better at spying in EVE than some FBI agent. And top-level EVE counter intel spy hunters catch top-level EVE spies every now and then.

On the other hand, an FBI agent is probably not trying to sabotage our in-game empire, so that lowers the risk of discovery a lot. Many counter intel leads come from our own spies in hostile EVE organizations. An FBI agent can avoid that trap, provided he doesn't try to infiltrate two major EVE alliances at once.

I guess an FBI agent that took it seriously, practiced very good IT security on his end, and only targeted a single EVE alliance would have low risk of being discovered. But if they treated it like infiltrating some random private web forum or other online group, they will likely get busted.
posted by ryanrs at 3:45 AM on December 10, 2013




"Yea, boss, there are definitely probably foreign spies exchanging information in WoW. That's why we're playing video games all day at work."

I am weeping bitter tears, but only because I didn't think of it first.
posted by corb at 12:41 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Colbert Report: NSA Video Game Surveillance
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on December 17, 2013


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