The National Security Agency is now turning its eyes to a new apparent terrorist threat to help protect Americans, Xbox users and other game services.
The super-secret NSA had its cloak of secrecy removed earlier this year when former employee Edward Snowden revealed how the agency routinely gathered information on nearly every phone call placed in the US and eavesdrops on the calls of several prominent foreign leaders including our allies.
When Snowden’s leaks were made public it placed the agency, which is frequently clouded in mystery and secrecy in a public light where it was forced to defend its data collection. The issue became more acute when the agency was caught misleading members of Congress over claims that any data collection of American citizens was inadvertent. It has since been revealed that agents used their ability to gather information to access the records of former dating partners.
With each new revelation by Snowden, who has said to date he has released only a small portion of all the information he removed from the agency, the NSA has repeatedly said the information was used solely to prevent America from suffering a terrorist type attack.
It now appears that the NSA has found a new terror threat on a par with al-Qaida, gamers who play World of Warcraft and other games.
The UK Guardian, which has been the recipient of the majority of Snowden’s leaks, revealed the NSA has engaged in a concerted efforts to infiltrate the sizeable communities involved in online gaming. The information came from a secret document that reveals that rather than simply being a topic discussed during brainstorming sessions, the agency has already built mass-data collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which boasts of over 48 million game players.
The agency entered the virtual world of games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life in an attempt to recruit informants by posing as a player.
The NSA document, Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments, was written in 2008, indicating the agency has been engaging in data collection of game players for several years.
The document said that the games “are an opportunity” and that the players were a “target rich communications network.” It went on to say if properly exploited the NSA could gather intelligence and use the information as a window for hacking attacks, and build pictures of individual player’s social network through “buddylists and interaction.”
The agency refused to either or deny it had actually carried out the advice recommended in the document.