Criminal Justice

Games Terrorists Play: US Seeks Suspects in Virtual Worlds

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In an effort to identify terrorists before they are ready to carry out full-fledged attacks, U.S. authorities apparently are developing a protocol for infiltrating password-protected game-playing sites and pinpointing potential suspects based on their virtual-world behavior.

“Using publicly available data, Reynard researchers will carry out observational studies to establish ‘baseline normative behaviors,’ ” which will then be applied to identify individuals who might pose a problem, writes BBC News. The project, which is known as Reynard, was revealed in a recent report to Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Experts say the surveillance plan has merit, since terrorist attacks routinely have begun with Internet-based planning and communication. An unnamed official from ODNI emphasizes that Reynard is still in a fledgling stage and will involve at this point only research and no “operational” work.

There is no word about which virtual worlds U.S. authorities are likely to target, but one observer predicts that mainstream sites that aren’t password-protected are an unlikely choice.

“I think it’s highly unlikely terrorists would use things like Second Life or World of Warcraft as they do not have the necessary security,” says Roderick Jones. The former United Kingdom special branch officer is currently a vice president of Concentric Solutions, a security consultant.

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