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In a chat on stage at at Semafor’s World Economy Summit, Microsoft President Brad Smith has said the company is currently dealing with attempts by various types of Russian agents to “penetrate” online gaming communities, with particular emphasis on those associated with Minecraft.
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While acknowledging these attempts are fairly low down the list of priorities when it comes to both corporate and national security—“it’s not like playing Call of Duty is going to, like, lead to deaths in the real world, these are video games”—Smith still stresses the importance of combating the intrusions, which are being made in an effort to spread propaganda and misinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Around games you have a community of gamers, they come together, they talk to each other, including when they’re playing a game. And for the last several months our digital threat analysis team has been identifying efforts by the Russians to basically penetrate some of these gaming communities”, he says.
“We’ve been advising governments about this, it’s the Wagner group, it’s Russian intelligence, and they’re just in part using this as a place to get information into circulation”. Smith then gives the specific instance of Russian agents infiltrating a Minecraft Discord channel.
As we’ve reported, that Discord server is at the heart of an international intelligence scandal, after classified US documents were posted there as part of a leak that has been described by the Pentagon as the “most damaging in decades”
The Wagner Group is a Russian PMC (private military company) that has historically worked in such close proximity to the government that it’s “considered a de facto unit of the Ministry of Defence or Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU”.