Can you keep a secret? Of course you can, you’re an adult. Could you keep military secrets? If threatened with prison (or worse) for revealing them, I bet you could. So why, in God’s name, do people playing the tank video game War Thunder (of all things!) keep leaking classified military documents?
To recap, this is somehow the third time I am writing this story. The first was in July 2021:
The July case involved a player getting into an argument on the game’s forums about the in-game depiction of Britain’s Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. To settle the disagreement, they posted what was essentially the tank’s manual, which was an enormously stupid thing to do—especially given it meant the UK’s Ministry of Defence soon got involved.
Then, only three months later:
This latest case involves a player getting into an argument on the game’s forums about the in-game depiction of France’s Leclerc Main Battle Tank. To settle the disagreement, they posted a part of what was essentially the tank’s manual, prompting the forum’s moderators to wonder just what the fuck is wrong with these people
And today we’re back. As first pointed out by @Osinttechnical, in an attempt to get developers to change some in-game stats a Chinese player posted an image on War Thunder’s forums earlier this week showing classified military documents. While I won’t share it here, it was a photo of some armament schematics (for a round fired by Chinese tanks), with one of the actual parts sitting on top of the paper.
The post in question was removed from War Thunder’s forums, but I’ve since seen the image reposted, and then deleted, in multiple instances on those same forums throughout the day. It’s now circulating everywhere, from Twitter to Reddit, to the extent that Chinese-speaking players have translated the round’s schematics and have been sharing the data alongside the image. (Though it should be noted most of the information was already known.)
Gaijin have since banned the user, telling Kotaku:
Our community managers immediately banned the user and deleted his post, as the information on this particular shell is still classified in China. Publishing classified information on any vehicle of any nation at War Thunder forums is clearly prohibited, and the game developers never use it in their work.
While we understand that our players want the game to be as realistic as possible, we’re kindly asking them not to do anything illegal and jeopardise their safety, as well as safety of our community team members. The developers of War Thunder do their best to research information on vehicles using legally available tools, and scandals like this are clearly not useful for our efforts.
The fact that a video game’s forums have become one of the greatest opsec hazards of the modern age, just because some dudes want to argue over a tank’s statistics, is deeply funny.