News Did Paris terrorists really use PlayStation 4 to plan attacks?

Discussion in 'Tech & News' started by Sonia, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, which have left at least 132 dead and many more injured, have been linked to Sony's PlayStation 4, with suggestions that the attackers used the game console to co-ordinate and plan the atrocity.

    After the hunt for suspects turned to Belgium, where evidence indicates that the attacks were planned, raids reportedly found at least one PS4, among other items, although this does not appear to have been confirmed.

    And just days before, Belgium's interior minister Jan Jambon, linked the PlayStation network to Isil, saying it was being increasingly used by terrorists and is more difficult to track than other communication services.

    "PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp," Jambon said at a debate in Brussels.

    "The most difficult communication between these terrorists is via PlayStation 4," he said. "It’s very, very difficult for our services — not only Belgian services but international services — to decrypt the communication that is done via PlayStation 4."

    Meanwhile, reports have quoted official sources suggesting that the attackers communicated with contacts in Syria using encryption tools.

    Is it easier to hide communications with a PS4?
    While most communication security questions have centred around smartphones, messaging and social media - phone calls, Facebook, WhatsApp, emails and so on - there is, of course, no shortage of devices and methods with which people can communicate over the internet.

    Games consoles are, of course, incredibly popular - the PlayStation 4 has sold more than 25 million units to date, and the PlayStation Network, which includes users of earlier games consoles and other Sony electronics - has more than 65 million users.

    Users can communicate via text over PSN's party chat, or using internet voice chat. There are also a number of in-game communication methods across various titles.

    While these systems may, as Jambon suggested, be more difficult to decrypt than other smartphone or web-based communication methods, it's possible that their breadth also makes them more difficult to monitor, or that security services have not given them as much attention as the likes of WhatsApp.

    Sony doesn't exactly have a great reputation for security. A hack of PSN in 2011 saw 77 million users affected by personal data theft, and a hack emerged in December last year that saw many personal details of celebrities and other public figures leaked.

    The PlayStation Network's privacy policy is relatively standard, saying it will share information with law authorities "when we believe in good faith that the law requires disclosure or that disclosure is necessary to protect or enforce the rights, property, safety, or security of ourselves or others".

    It has also been speculated that messages could be drawn out within games, rather than written, in creative ways such as firing patterns of bullets at a wall. This would make any monitoring by text-filtering impossible.

    Paris attacks
    At this stage, however, we have very little evidence tying the PS4 or the PlayStation Network to the Paris attacks.

    A PS4 may have been found in the raids, but would also have been found in 25 million other households around the world. High-end games consoles are especially popular among young men, and if indeed owned by the attackers or their accomplices, may have just been a way of spending time.

    Practically all internet communication services have been, at one time or another, accused of being a network used by terrorists. GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan said last year that Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have become "command and control networks... for terrorists and criminals".

    [​IMG]WhatsApp and Facebook have also been said to be used by terrorists Photo: Getty

    Security researcher Graham Cluley wrote: "Anything which allows two people to exchange messages (whether it be by talking, typing, or waving semaphore flags at each other in a 3D virtual environment) could potentially be used by terrorists to communicate.

    "I have umpteen chess apps on my phone which allow me to play folks online. Even if many of them didn't come with their own instant-messaging facility, I could communicate with my fellow extremists by playing a pre-agreed opening, that they knew how to interpret.

    "Don't love chess? Not a problem. Launch an online game like 'Draw Something' and you'll soon be doodling your orders for a terrorist attack to your partner in crime."

    While it's possible that the PS4 could have been used as a communication tool to plan attacks, it is only one of many different services that could have been used.

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