Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Tag

For France….

I do not know what more to say than has already been said.  I continue to hold to the belief that terrorism more attracts the wrath of the people you are attacking than accomplishes anything, and I shall continue to hold to that belief.

This blog’s masthead shall display the French flag for one week as a tribute and a reminder….

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Posted November 14, 2015 by Harper Ganesvoort in News, Real Life

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Dressed for Spying Success

You may recall the flap a few weeks ago, started by the Washington Post, about how the CIA and others in (pseudo-) intelligence are worried virtual worlds such as Second Life can be recruiting, meeting and (money) laundry grounds for terrorists. (If you don’t recall, read here.)

Well, Chrisy Jewell read this recently, also discovering that the code name for the CIA’s operation in world is Reynard; and realized something the Post didn’t think about: if you’re gonna be keeping tabs on the bad guys, you should at least dress properly for the job. So she threw together a nice — and, more important, stylish — outfit from Shai, et al., and proceeded to put it to the test.

I can’t say if she managed to keep an eye on any bad guys. But, hey! She sure looked good!

(Incidentally, I wouldn’t count on being able to bring up “Reynard” in Search….)

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Spooks on the Grid

I’m catching up on the news while in the middle of yet another move — my third in four months, but more on that another time. For now, the focus is on how the Real World keeps pokin’ into Second Life in less than savory ways.

The Washington Post (signup may be required) reported on February 6 on how intelligence analysts are beginning to worry about the chance of virtual worlds such as SL being used by criminals and terrorists as meeting sites, laundromats for money, and training and recruiting grounds. The story tells how the CIA counters the threat by purchasing a few private simulations as training and “unclassified meeting” locations. (The article is unclear on the subject, but uses the term “islands,” which suggests that these enclaves are on our Grid.)

Wagner James Au cites the Post story in his New World Notes piece, following which he checked the blog of our beloved Flying Spaghetti Monster, Cory Ondrejka, the former CTO of Linden Lab. Cory insists that Second Life counters extremism by providing a place for multiple viewpoints to be shared. Wagner wonders about this if someone is “already predisposed toward Islamist extremism.” Wagner also questions Cory’s contention that money funneled through SL and the Lindex could be traced once it hits a Real World bank, noting that numerous small transactions can probably slip under the radar.

Though I don’t really see how you could train a terrorist cell in SL to blow up a tank with an IED, I wouldn’t much discount either side’s arguments. Yes, it would be very difficult to smuggle large amounts of money through the Grid banking and exchange systems. However, the salami method of slicing a large sum up into many smaller sums is well known — I give away no secrets here — and could be used. It would take numerous people (or using bots, as Wagner suggests) and a lot of determination; but determination is a hallmark of an extremist mindset. The one thing that occurs to me is that even a large amount of small traffic going to a single person, or a set of persons, could raise a spike on a statistical examination of traffic, but this can be overcome by sending to multiple individuals, or an organizational account.

The “meeting place” scenario is much more viable. Picture this: your cell buys an estate island, well isolated if possible from encroachment by other estates being built. (There is lots of open sea, if you check your Map at max out zoom.) You declare the whole island private by using available lockdown measures, or buying a security package to boot someone home in 5-10 seconds after approach. Build your “conference center” at least 25 meters in from the edges, just to make sure you’re not “overheard.” Set up however you want, from quick-and-dirty cubes to sit on — a virtual-physical symbol of the oppression you are under — to whatever level of comfort you desire, and issue invitations to those you wish to attend. You will still face normal Grid problems like rolling restarts and outages, but you’re set to roll beyond that.

Unless someone knows that you’re operating in this place, and knows who you are, there is not a high probability of your being overseen. Nobody can approach your island without ramming into the infamous red “No Entry” lines, or your security package will give them the boot before they get more than a few sentences of whatever your group is saying. Their only hope would be to (hopefully!) get a court order — again, if they know or suspect strongly who you are — and have Linden Lab tap your datastream to capture what you send and receive. Even then, unless I misunderstand the technology, the “conversation” may be a trifle one-sided, and important information may be lost.

I don’t say that this is something to leap at in panic. But this is something to consider carefully, and take appropriate, advised action on. “Advised” because it is far too easy to abuse whatever authority you have or are given in your zeal. But we need to keep this in mind.

SUPPLEMENTAL, 1:24 p.m. local:

…[T]he Post article raises some intriguing, though perhaps overblown, claims about the ease to which anonymity can be abused. For example, records are not kept of communication between avatars, which could lead to suspicious activities between nefarious individuals. These types of situations have the government nervous, and interested in gaining access to the servers of 3-D and role-playing games.

These issues are not unique to 3D worlds. They’re not even unique to the Internet. A lot of these espionage/criminal claims are a lot like the early warning bells about the Internet, and probably at one point in time about telephones. Basically, it’s government saying “these new technologies scare us, stuff that scares us is bad, and so being scared we have a right to monitor servers and private conversations between individuals so we feel, well, less scared.”

UPDATE, Feb. 15, 7:15 a.m.:

  • I just discovered Gwyneth Llewelyn’s take on the matter. She decries the Post article as alarmist:

Also, this is “old news” and vastly discussed in previous years. It’s incredible how some journalists, in their eagerness to condemn virtual worlds and ruin the virtual economy and virtual societies, recycle “bad news” from the past, change the order of the paragraphs, add a few more quotes (often cited out of context), and republish exactly the same article that was written 10 or 20 years ago.

In my next incarnation, I wish I were reborn as a Luddite journalist. One could make a career out of it, just writing one single article for my whole life, and doing a search & replace on a few words every time a new paradigm-shifting technology is released…

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