Major Classified Pentagon Documents Leak Tracked Through A Minecraft Discord Server

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Discord is an incredible service, if you think about it. Anyone, with a free account, can create their own private space to chat over text, voice, or video. These Discord "servers" allow an unlimited number of file uploads and downloads, and you can even link the resources hosted on Discord externally. It has a full-featured mobile app as well as both web and desktop clients.

That makes Discord an extremely appealing avenue through which leakers and bad actors can exfiltrate data, which is apparently what happened earlier this year at the US Pentagon. According to the Wall Street Journal, top secret documents containing information about the war in Ukraine, the US's snooping on its allies, American intelligence on ISIS and China, and other sensitive topics were leaked through Discord.

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A Minecraft Discord server where documents were disseminated. Image: Bellingcat

Open-source investigative research collective Bellingcat writes that the documents it has seen were dated to early March, which was around the time that they were first posted to Discord. However, that site claims that it has seen evidence that documents may have been leaked over Discord as early as January. People who are supposedly from the Discord servers where the documents were shared say that many more documents were leaked in recent months.

It seems to be hard to overstate the magnitude of this leak. The Wall Street Journal describes it as "dozens" of documents, and Bellingcat seems to think that they were initially posted on a server known as "Thug Shaker Central" which has since been entirely deleted, rendering these claims impossible to verify.

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Leaked US DoD documents posted to 4chan. Image: Bellingcat

From there, they were apparently shared in the fan server for UK YouTube memes channel @wow_mao, then ended up in a "much bigger" server focused on Minecraft. After that, the photos naturally showed up on infamous imageboard 4chan shortly before finally appearing on Telegram and Twitter.

Interestingly, while the Russian government believes that the documents are legit and show the extent of US and NATO involvement in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Bellingcat reports that at least one Russian Telegram channel believes that the leak was intentional, and that the documents are "disinformation." That's some serious 4D chess counter-intelligence work if so, but anything is possible.

For its part, the Department of Defense told Bellingcat that it is "actively reviewing the matter, and has made a formal referral to the Department of Justice for investigation." We wouldn't be surprised if the end result of this incident is a ban for Discord on the devices of all DoD personnel.