Movie-Plot Threats in Second Life

Oh, give me a break:

On the darker side, there are also weapons armouries in SL where people can get access to guns, including automatic weapons and AK47s. Searches of the SL website show there are three jihadi terrorists registered and two elite jihadist terrorist groups.

Once these groups take up residence in SL, it is easy to start spreading propaganda, recruiting and instructing like minds on how to start terrorist cells and carry out jihad.

One radical group, called Second Life Liberation Army, has been responsible for some computer-coded atomic bombings of virtual world stores in the past six months.

On screen these blasts look like an explosion of hazy white balls as buildings explode, landscapes are razed and residents are wounded or killed.

With the game taking such a sinister turn, terrorism experts are warning that SL attacks have ramifications for the real world. Just as September 11 terrorists practised flying planes on simulators in preparation for their deadly assault on US buildings, law enforcement agencies believe some of those behind the Second Life attacks are home-grown Australian jihadists who are rehearsing for strikes against real targets.

Geez. Do we all need to take our shoes off before logging in or something? Refuse to be terrorized, people.

Another discussion.

EDITED TO ADD (8/2): Another article.

Posted on August 1, 2007 at 11:49 AM • 37 Comments

Comments

Brandioch ConnerAugust 1, 2007 12:37 PM

"Just as September 11 terrorists practised flying planes on simulators in preparation for their deadly assault on US buildings, law enforcement agencies believe some of those behind the Second Life attacks are home-grown Australian jihadists who are rehearsing for strikes against real targets."

Because every "simulator" is equal to every other "simulator".

The AK-47 simulator in Second Life looks an awful lot like a computer mouse and a computer keyboard.

The flight simulator used to train people on flying looks an awful lot like a control panel for that aircraft.

I will change my opinion the first time someone kills someone else in real life using mouse clicks.

DavidAugust 1, 2007 12:55 PM

I realize that Second Life strives (to some extent) to model the "real world," but come ON. Why is it possible for a user to deploy code that destroys other users' assets and characters?

Sounds like a fundamentally bad design decision.

Sean O'HaraAugust 1, 2007 1:10 PM

Anyone who's played Second Life knows how absurd this is -- the game uses such an overwrought graphics engine that the system will slow down to a crawl or flat-out freeze if there are too many people or too much action in an area.

Baron Dave RommAugust 1, 2007 1:31 PM

Well, now we know what the terrorists are planning, eh?

And what e-mail addresses they use. I wonder how many virtual terrorists suffer from ED? Could be lucrative...

Miles BaskaAugust 1, 2007 1:34 PM

Take a look at the source of this article, News.com, and examine some of their other headlines:
Aussie men world's worst in bed
Katie Holmes treats Erica to Scientology shop spree
Pedophile stalked Wiggles fans

Clearly, these folks are much closer to "National Enquirer" than they are to Reuters.

Yes, of course, refuse to be terrorized, but consider the source of any "information".

JonAugust 1, 2007 2:22 PM

My friend got banned repeatedly from SL for doing this kind of thing. I guess they've changed their minds about allowing it to be turned into a wargame. He hasn't been playing for the past few years cause it got boring.

BetaAugust 1, 2007 2:55 PM

@David: I realize that Second Life strives (to some extent) to model the "real world," but come ON. Why is it possible for a user to deploy code that destroys other users' assets and characters? Sounds like a fundamentally bad design decision.

Sounds like a war game. I know that isn't SL's official genre, but in a war game it's perfectly reasonable. I fondly remember one "virtual world" in which I carried out full scale invasions of an enemy's star systems armed with antimatter weapons and wound up killing about a trillion people. I--

Hang on, there's someone at the door.

C GomezAugust 1, 2007 3:03 PM

I don't think this has much to do with refusing to be terrorized as reporters not really understanding... well... anything.

Practice all you want in your stupid game. It has no bearing. And I don't think readers are reading this drivel and running for cover.

I think much of the perception that "we're terrorized" is simply that the media prints sensational stories and quotes random passersby and calls it news. News is rarely news these days.

M. PythonAugust 1, 2007 3:15 PM

Excuse me, are you the Second Life Liberation Army?

Fuck off!

What?

Second Life Liberation Army! We're the Liberation Army of Second Life. Second Life Liberation Army. Chuh!

Can I join your group?

No. Piss off.

I hate virtual world stores as much as anybody.

Listen. If you really wanted to join the L.A.S.L., you'd have to really hate virtual world stores.

I do!

Oh, yeah? How much?

A lot!

Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than virtual world stores are the fucking Second Life Liberation Army. Splitters. And the Austrailian Jihadists. Splitters.

partdavidAugust 1, 2007 3:30 PM

Re: David and others... "how is it possible to destroy...?"

It isn't. You can create illusions that obscure other things (because they're in front of it)--for example, a spray of "bullets" and little animations of blood spatters. But you can't destroy or change things which belong to others. You can sort of push people around, too, but it's pretty clumsy. In other words, you can provide a distraction. That's it.

In short, the people worried about these attacks, even in Secord Life, don't know what they're talking about.

The MailmanAugust 1, 2007 3:38 PM

This gives me an idea. I will create a Second Life character with the name "Virtual Bruce," who will also a virtual blog, encouraging virtual people to think sensibly about virtual security in a uncertain virtual world. Virtual Bruce will also publish a virtual book on security, and will speak at virtual security conferences.

edgoreAugust 1, 2007 3:43 PM

We have to take this threat serously, after all it's where they are laying the groundwork for future robot-criminal cyborg hybrids!

jAugust 1, 2007 4:29 PM

Phase One is in progress -- attracting the terrorists and wannabees to Second Life.

Phase Two soon to start -- closing the trap and locking them there.

utnapistimAugust 2, 2007 12:38 AM

FBI headquarters:

Director: Smith, what are you doing?

Smith: Err ... sir?

D: Are you playing during office hours?

S: No sir.

D: Then what is that "Second Life" on your computer screen?

S: Err ... I'm ... err ... looking for terrorists sir.

D: Oh. All right, carry on.

AndrewAugust 2, 2007 1:13 AM

I hate to burst your bubble, Bruce, but this article is actually dead on.

Terrorists can train and do rehearsals in virtual space. Some of them are doing it. Doing it on Second Life would be kind of stupid, though. The military gains significant training benefit from certain video games, starting with the early mod of DOOM called "Marine Doom" and moving up through "America's Army." The Navy has used Harpoon and variants for years. Note that the September 11th terrorists used high-end flight simulators.

As long as there are a lot more good guys benefiting from training on line, than bad guys, so much the better. Plus the chance to catch bad guys using the Internet.

>> Intelligence analyst Roderick Jones, who is investigating the potential use of the games by terrorists, says SL could easily become a terror classroom.

I know some people on SL called "griefers" who are using these kind of tactics. They can't do any "real" damage, of course, but they can test out attack modalities and gauge psychological impact. B-tards aren't terrorists, not hardly, but they are doing the virtual-world equivalent of throwing stink bombs in a crowded theater. This kind of rehearsal is actually more interesting than physical attacks -- because ultimately, a terrorist attack takes place in the brain of the people who hear about it. One reason I'm so frustrated with the "current regime" is the extent that they play up the terrorists and thereby amplify terrorist effectiveness at damaging the American people.

However, I'm much more worried about the use of virtual worlds as a recruitment tool, using time-honored real world techniques to separate the sheep from the goats. I'm reminded of one video game called "Concentration Camp Manager" reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KZ_Manager The kind of thing only an extremist would waste any time on.

A positive trend is the use of games to show the effects of and reconstruct real life events. The following controversial game is one such effort: http://www.columbinegame.com/

>> I will change my opinion the first time someone kills someone else in real life using mouse clicks.

If you have the mount, optics and stabilization, hooking it up to a Web browser is easy:

http://www.roi.bourns.com/weapon/crows.asp

WooAugust 2, 2007 1:39 AM

All this Second Life panic is about to become a great amusement. I guess I should get an account there some day, to wreak a bit of havoc. ;)

bobAugust 2, 2007 7:31 AM

Never played SL (but may try it now - sounds interesting) but have played WoW which is also mentioned as a training tool. My Hunter (one of the few classes in WoW which can use firearms) carries a single shot weapon which fires every 2.3 seconds (and misses 30% of the time). He also can enchant the bullets to drain mana (magical power used by wizards to cast spells) or stun the opponent for 4 seconds.

They're right, this is a perfect training tool for using an an AK-47 in RL (real life) - particularly if you plan to terrorize Orcs, Ogres, and two-headed six-legged lizards the size of garbage trucks that spit poison in multi-gallon doses.

And they say game players lose track of reality...

El RataAugust 2, 2007 11:43 AM

I am concerned and troubled, not about this rubbish or the "Global War on Terror" scam and its vast literature of propaganda, but because so many people eat it up so readily. This tripe went from preposterous simpleminded stories and specious claims to truisms and unassailable conventional wisdom in a very short period of time.

What can be done to stop and revert our fellow citizens' unbelievable gullibility?

Uncle Moneybag's NephewAugust 2, 2007 9:48 PM

OS, Monopoly is a real estate game, not a stock market game. You'll have to take on Trump instead if you train on Monopoly. Try Pit if you want to exchange securities.

AnonymousAugust 2, 2007 10:15 PM

Should there ever be a conspiracy trial concerning virtual terror operations, I would not be surprised by a defense argument that the defendant's participation was to test for weaknesses in the anti-terror shield, and that therefore his participation was for the public good. Such an argument might or might not be grounded in truth. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have made a few anti-terror posts or comments online, and to have some written offline thoughts lying around ready to support one's anti-terror position.

Aside: My text editor's spellchecker did not flag “ant-terror.��? Fortunately I spotted it in time. We certainly don't need to introduce any of that.

JackG'tAugust 2, 2007 10:19 PM

I pasted and posted and forgot the name field for the above post with the “ant-terror��? reference.

StevoAugust 3, 2007 4:32 AM

"Refuse to be terrorized"?
Simple, just start by avoiding Ruppert Murdoch's conglomerate news sources.

AnonymousAugust 3, 2007 12:30 PM

@el Rata, "What can be done to stop and revert our fellow citizens' unbelievable gullibility?"

stop treating them like mushrooms?

but think, if the President's only chance of re-election hinges on maximizing the gullibility of the electorate, what is the expected course of action?

@Andrew, "One reason I'm so frustrated with the "current regime" is the extent that they play up the terrorists and thereby amplify terrorist effectiveness at damaging the American people."

Yes, W is as much a terrorist as ObL, they're both cut from the same cloth.

guess I just bought myself a ticket to gitmo, if I'm lucky I'll see ya all again, maybe...

Alan MAugust 3, 2007 2:02 PM

So, the Intelligence agencies have been worried about griefers on SL becoming terrorists?

Huh.

I am truly afraid. I'm afraid that they are either stupid or crazy.

Then again, when terrorists rush police while bunny-hopping wielding a knife and then do the booty-shake dance over the dying officers while screaming "0wnd!" I know I will feel like a total fool for having ever doubted our national intelligence experts.

Real AnonymousAugust 5, 2007 2:32 PM

Frankly, I'm more worried about use of squirt-guns as firearms training simulators. At least they have a real trigger to pull, not a mouse-button click. If that seems laughable, then that's the point.

Or I'm worried about someone who trained themselves to drive using a racing game, with a steering wheel and pedals. Anyone who's driven a rental car knows how useful a video racing game is.

If someone told me that they'd trained themselves for months to ride a horse using the Barbi video game where you ride around on a pony, I'd laugh my ass off. I sure wouldn't worry about them beating me in a hunter competition. More likely, I'd worry about them falling off and startling my horse in the under-saddle round.

Face it: the physical skills comes from physical practice, not from a physically divorced activity like clicking a mouse. That's why real-world terrorits used real flight simulators in a real pilot-training program.


AnonymousAugust 5, 2007 2:34 PM

It's a propaganda tool, that's all. Finding like-minded recruits on the internet is easy, even without Second Life.

UlricOctober 4, 2007 8:09 AM

The comment about no damage is not accurate. Yes, if you know a lot about working with objects, you can reassemble serious damage in its entirety. And you probably have your property properly locked down. If you are not into working objects around, a griefer can effectively disassemble objects that are not locked down properly, including buildings (maybe especially buildings). That's what they do - look for someone that has too many open rights on the property and use it to scramble everything he or she has. Real enough if a hundred (real life) dollars or so of stuff is rendered useless.

AndrewDecember 6, 2007 5:38 PM

Isn't it just a matter of Second Life Linden Lab staff finding them and hitting the delete button.
They got rid of gambling and underage role play pretty quick because the government 'asked them to'. I'm sure they could easiyl start listing griefers and blocking their ip's or something. Or better yet just hand what they find to the cyber cops, let them handle it.

And don't forget, it may be laughable that someone would 'train' in sl to become a real terrorist. But it is a pretty safe place for a group to meet up and discuss plans or whatever, pass pictures etc to eachother. Email is easily traced and trackable. Second Life could become a sneaky way of passing info around. You dont even have to be in the same sim. I'm sure the cyber police are all over IM, usenet, the web etc..
but Second Life is something new.

GrahamDecember 6, 2007 5:44 PM

What do you mean they can't do any real damage. I know the Australian ABC island was 'nuked' a while back. It was obliterated. Now I understand that Linden Labs can just roll back the sim, but i'd say you'd have to get in touch with them and arrange for this to happen.

RichardJApril 8, 2008 5:42 PM

This game is "SCARY". I know some can just play it and have fun. I watched my girlfriend destroy herself on Second Life. I just finally left her. While she wan't involved in "Armies" she got immersed in this stupid second life that her RL is nothing. She goes to work and plays her game. her house is a pig stye with trash and cat poop and vommit every where. It stinks and she sees nothing wrong with it.

alexbobpJune 5, 2009 10:03 AM

hehe...
for background, in Second Life, when an avatar is killed they respawn at their home location. Given that avatars can teleport freely and combat only works if the landowner allows it, this is hardly a serious problem.

the "nuclear weapons" are probably referring to doomsday weapons, which are replicators that can crash the simulator servers. The users themselves have to log all the way back in in order to get back to the game... the horror!

TehhuskyFebruary 24, 2013 12:51 AM

RichardJ; It wasn't Second Life that caused these issues. No, what it is is a personality disorder. It could of happened with anything, WoW etc.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..