NSA, GCHQ said to be able to monitor Xbox Live chat communications

Xbox Live chat communications, World of Warcraft and Second Life chat communications to be monitored.

By Konstantinos Christakis

Recent information has revealed to the public that UK and US spies are able to monitor communications within games such as World of Warcraft and listen in to private discussions on Xbox Live chat. The latest collection of documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden, published on the 9th of December in The Guardian newspaper, have highlighted the security services' growing interest in online gaming as a means for people to communicate. It's kind of sad, but true and only possible after all the continuous updates we see with NSA lately.

A September 2008 memo from GCHQ was mere proof of the fact that they were able to now monitor Xbox Live communications. The report from the agents said, "successfully been able to get the discussions between different game players on Xbox Live". NSA operatives were also deployed within games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life to monitor users and find information regarding their "buddylists and interaction".

Games "are an opportunity!", one analyst wrote, and offer a new and different "target-rich communications network" to the more already common means of communication available to anyone. Games are the kind of thing that people can use to "hide in plain sight".

The 2008 document talked of the NSA's "vigorous effort" to monitor game users via "exploitation modules" against Xbox Live and World of Warcraft. The program was run out of the agency's UK Menwith Hill base in North Yorkshire and used World of Warcraft metadata to link "accounts, characters and guilds" with potential targets. The even more "weird" part of the leaked documents though, is that the agency found no "suspicious" movement or activity, or any relation to "suspicious" groups whatsoever.

It is unknown how the agencies were able to gain the access they did, how many people's private communications and data have been accessed and whether that surveillance is still ongoing or not. Microsoft, of course, has declined to comment on the report and that's not a move we see for the first time.

Blizzard (developer of famous mmorpg "World Of Warcraft) said that it was "unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission".

A spokesperson for GCHQ did not "confirm or deny" the Guardian's report, but reassured that the British agency's actions were carried out "in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Intelligence and Security Committee".


Published December 8th, 2013

Kelfecil (Konstantinos Christakis) resides in the Netherlands and is a freelancer writer, blogger and many other things. He is also an author and the indies press correspondent at IGN Greece. You can find more about him on his blog. You can follow him on twitter and facebook.