Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Terrorist training in Second Life

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    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    Terrorist training in Second Life

    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.

    Terrorist organisations al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah traditionally sent potential jihadists to train in military camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. But due to increased surveillance and intelligence-gathering, they are swapping some military training to online camps to evade detection and avoid prosecution.

    Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al-Qaeda, says it is a new phenomena that, until now, has not been openly discussed outside the intelligence community.

    But he says security agencies are extremely concerned about what home-grown terrorists are up to in cyberspace. He believes the dismantling and disruption of military training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan after September 11 forced terrorists to turn to the virtual world.

    "They are rehearsing their operations in Second Life because they don't have the opportunity to rehearse in the real world," Gunaratna says. "And unless governments improve their technical capabilities on a par with the terrorists' access to globalisation tools like the internet and Second Life, they will not be able to monitor what is happening in the terrorist world."

    Kevin Zuccato, head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre in Canberra, says terrorists can gain training in games such as World of Warcraft in a simulated environment, using weapons that are identical to real-world armaments.

    Zuccato told an Australian Security Industry Association conference in Sydney that people intent on evil no longer had to travel to the target they wanted to attack to carry out reconnaissance. He said they could use virtual worlds to create an exact replica and rehearse an entire attack online, including monitoring the response and ramifications.

    "We need to start thinking about living, working and protecting two worlds and two realities," he says.

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

    Mr Jones says streaming video can be uploaded into SL and a scenario can easily be constructed whereby an experienced bomb-maker could demonstrate how to assemble bombs using his avatar to answer questions as he plays the video.

    The bomb-maker and his students could be spread across the world, using instant language translation tools to communicate.

    "Just as real-life companies such as Toyota test their products in SL, so could terrorists construct virtual representations of targets they wish to attack in order to examine the potential target's vulnerabilities and reaction to attack," Jones says.

    One of the most useful tools available is theability to transfer SL money between avatars, funds that can then be translated into real currency.

    Intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the US and Australia are so concerned they have established their own reality world games in a bid to gain the same experiences as the virtual terrorists.

    Community representatives are relied on to report suspicious or inappropriate behaviour to the owners or the SL authorities, just as in the real world.,23599,22163811-2,00.html

    Hmmm now we need agents in SL.


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