March 04, 2008 |
I may be exaggerating just a bit with my headline, but the U.S. Government is so determined to catch terrorists anywhere they are hiding out that they have plans to develop a system for identifying “abnormal” behavior in online virtual worlds like World of Warcraft.
The project has been codenamed Reynard, which I can only assume is after the mythical trickster Reynard. I'm not sure whether they mean the name to imply that the intelligence folks would be tricking the terrorists or tricking the taxpayers who would be footing the bill for their salaries while they play WoW during work hours.
Most experts agree that it's doubtful that terrorists would use any virtual world for plotting purposes, considering that they are wide-open for anyone to go anywhere with no privacy or security in place. Even a WoW funeral gets crashed, so how on earth would a terrorist enclave have a secret meeting without someone stumbling upon it (although, come to think of it, I've been in Second Life doing “research” for an article and not seen another resident the entire time).
Of course, the program is allegedly in the “research” stage now:
A senior intelligence officer at the ODNI said Reynard was in its very early stages and it was too soon to say which online worlds it would be studying. He added that any work on it would be purely for research rather than “operational” purposes.
The reality is that yes, there are tons of ways that potential terrorists could organize online, but MMOGs and virtual worlds really aren't feasible, and I'd assume any 15-year-old could have told them that. Next think you know, they'll be searching wikis for user-created plots. In the meantime, be careful. The next Leroy Jenkins could be a U.S. operative.