Gamers in on line environments like World of Warcraft and Second Life may have had encounters with secret agents. The Guardian reports American and British spy agencies have infiltrated into major online environments, suspecting that terrorist were hiding among the elves and goblins.

The newspaper writes that the NSA has "built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network," as well as deploying agents in the virtual kingdoms of World of Warcraft and Second Life. The infiltration started with the suspicion that terrorists or criminals could use online gaming environments to share secret messages.

The information stems from a report that was written in 2008 and revealed by whistle blower Edward Snowden. It explains that online environments are "target-rich communications networks" where bad-doers could "hide in plain sight". The report didn't indicate that any of this wealth of data every foiled any terrorism plots. Nor, for that matter, is it clear that any terror groups really use such virtual communities to communicate, even though the NSA suspected they might.

The California-based producer of World of Warcraft told the Guardian that neither the NSA nor GCHQ had sought its permission to gather intelligence inside the game. "We are unaware of any surveillance taking place," said a spokesman for Blizzard Entertainment. "If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission." Microsoft declined to comment on the latest revelations, as did Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life.

Although further details of the infiltration in online games are yet to be revealed, we can already conclude: virtual life is getting serious.

Via The Guardian. Image: Nigel Treblin/AFP/Getty Images

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