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UK and US spy agencies target Xbox Live network

Online video game network Xbox Live has been infiltrated by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its UK equivalent, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), under the suspicion that it is an environment where terrorists "hide in plain sight".

The files detailing the surveillance initiative were disclosed by former NSA contract worker and whistleblower Edward Snowden and published yesterday by the Guardian in partnership with the New York Times and investigative news site ProPublica.

"We know that terrorists use many feature-rich Internet communications media for operational purposes... and it is highly likely they will be making wide use of the many communications features offered by Games and Virtual Environments (GVE) by 2010," the document notes.

"Al-Qaida terrorist target selectors... have been found associated with Xbox Live, Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other GVEs. Other targets include Chinese hackers, an Iranian nuclear scientist, Hizballah, and Hamas members."

The document also reveals that intelligence agencies fear terrorists are using video games to train in military combat. One example given is Kuma Wars, a US based company that offered realistic battle simulations of real battles in Iraq not long after they actually happened.

"These games offer realistic weapons training (what weapon to use against what target, what ranges can be achieved, even aiming and firing), military operations and tactics, photorealistic land navigation and terrain familiarisation, and leadership skills," the document reads.

Yesterday it was announced that eight of the world's largest tech companies, including Microsoft, had joined forces to demand wide-spread reforms to US government surveillance, in what is the most significant response yet to the spying revelations. Obama had previously stated that he would be proposing reforms, which should be expected to be announced after he receives the findings from the NSA review panel next week.