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Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rummies. The NSA is monitoring gamers online for terrorist communications. Ignorance mocks … and is flat wrong. 


Games “are built and operated by companies looking to make money, so the players’ identity and activity is tracked,” said Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution, an author of “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know.” “For terror groups looking to keep their communications secret, there are far more effective and easier ways to do so than putting on a troll avatar.”

Uh, Peter dear. In a word, “No.” The business of videogames is more complicated than that. the top three major pay-to-play markets are: South Korea, Japan, and USA. To be successful, videogames need players, lots of players. If nobody else is in the game when you login, it’s no fun. 

So game companies set up portals in poor nations to allow gamers in for free. That way, when they roll out the portal for the big three pay-to-play markets (S. Korea, Japan and USA) the games are well populated with players. Games set up systems to allow gamers to make money selling game-acquired stuff online. 

I can tell you from direct observation that MMOG is very popular in poor nations in Central Asia. Unemployment is high. Revolutions and civil wars are remembered by everyone, or else they know people who do. Lots of time on their hands plus practical interest in warfare, plus not getting reinforcement out of their real-world (rather stark) life = passion for gaming. 

The most common MMOGs were Counterstrike and Delta Force in the years I was there. It’s moved on. Tank World has had a run. Granted, those don’t lend themselves to coded communications. But the point should be clear. In that part of the world, they play, they play for free, and companies don’t know who they are – nor do the companies care. 

Plus – outside the developed world, hacking is not a hobby, it’s a method of survival. For instance, I hired a gentleman who had: built his computers from parts acquired from the dump; wired a stepdown transformer to the subway tracks to supply his house; cracked and installed software from Windows and Autodesk CAD to EndNote and Mathematica. Trust me, those guys would have no issues with hacking into MMOGs to play on other’s accounts. 

And Mr. Singer?

  • In the spy business, lack of evidence has no relationship to lack of activity. Good spies don’t show evidence. 
  • In the spy business, if you don’t dig around and find nothing the vast majority of the time, then you are missing a huge amount. Or, you might be digging on a motherlode planted there to mislead you.