Microsoft has learned that Russian agents are spreading misinformation through a Minecraft discord server.
Following the leak of classified documents on the unofficial Minecraft Discord server, Microsoft stated that Russian agents are currently attempting to infiltrate gaming communities in order to spread information, or rather, misinformation. Admittedly, this isn’t the first time politics and gaming have mixed, much to the inconvenience of all gamers, as Russians didn’t shy away from hacking several gaming developers, including those working on STALKER 2, while the other side has called for the boycott of Russian-made Atomic Heart.
As reported by Kotaku, Microsoft’s president Brad Smith has said that the company is currently dealing with attempts made by Russian agents to “penetrate” and infiltrate online gaming communities, particularly Minecraft—a game that’s very popular among Western audiences. The news was shared during Semafor’s World Economy Summit, with Smith adding that Microsoft is already advising governments about the issue of Russian agents joining various gaming communities with the intention of sowing misinformation and propaganda.
Words like “Wagner Group” and “Russian intelligence” were also used to describe the perpetrators—the former is a private military organization run by Putin’s allies. However, since it works closely with the Russian government, it’s basically widely regarded as the unit under the Russian Ministry of Defense, or GRU—Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye—which is Russian for Main Intelligence Directorate. Hence, all of its employees are also basically considered Russian agents working for Vladimir Putin.
Microsoft’s president also added that it’s rather important to stop Russian agents from infiltrating various gaming communities since they can spread propaganda and misinformation related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, he also added that doing so isn’t the most pressing issue when it comes to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. In fact, these attempts, whether successful or not, are fairly low on the list of priorities when it comes to national and corporate security, regardless of how successful they are.
Most online gaming communities, such as those in World of Warcraft and other MMOs, actually have their own rules of conduct, and the majority of them prohibit any discussion about politics or ongoing conflicts among their members, so the success rate of Russian agents spreading propaganda successfully among gamers is actually pretty low. With that said, Russians are known for social engineering on a mass scale regardless of the channel, and they shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to their use of propaganda or false information to tailor public opinion.
In the news related to the previously mentioned Minecraft leak, the FBI arrested a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman over the unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission (sharing) of classified national defense information. The Guardsmen in question actually held the highest level of security clearance granted by the federal government for top-secret information. However, according to unofficial—and thus unverified—sources, the person in question shared the documents with members of his unofficial Minecraft Discord server.
The further spread of classified information was then facilitated by other members of that particular server, after which edited versions of the document surfaced, propagating information that aligns with Russian interests—these were apparently edited by the Russian agents.