With so many first person shooter games that emulate violent situations, notably the Call of Duty games, it is difficult to discern if the players are talking about the game or real-world events. "For example, maybe two terrorists are playing Call of Duty and talking about what they're going to shoot"
As people the world over reel from the recent tragedy in Paris, much thought is being given to just how the terrorists were able to carry out eight simultaneous strikes. Although no definitive answer has been given yet, some are blaming the Sony PlayStation 4 of enabling communication between terrorist cells.
At least one PlayStation 4 console has been seized in Belgium in relation to the attacks. The Minister of Home Affairs in Belgium, Jan Jambon, had mentioned the gaming console as a possible means of subverting internet security measures on November 10, just days before the Paris attacks.
“It’s very, very difficult for our [intelligence] services – not only our Belgian services but international services – to decrypt the communications via PlayStation 4,” said Jambon.
“WhatsApp is also a difficult one,” said Jambon, though he added that intelligence services could decrypt messages send via the app after some struggle.
“People think the mosques are the places of recruitment but I think that today, most of the recruitment is done by the Internet,” said Jambon. “I often see the parents of these guys and they say that at a certain moment in time these children — or these youngsters — didn’t join us to go to the mosques. The mosques were too moderate and they find their ‘truth’ on the Internet.”
Mr. Jambon did not go into the details as to why these forms of communication are especially hard for security agencies to decrypt. However, it is believed that difficulty has to do with the proprietary operating system of the PlayStation 4 is fit with its own communication network and protocols – both of which are encrypted.
“It uses a proprietary file system and the hard disk is also encrypted, making forensics (and hacking) very difficult,” said Mike Thompson, director of information security products and services at Linus Information Security Solutions. “To monitor network communications effectively would therefore require specific PS4 tools to be crafted with access to the PlayStation Network and user accounts. This makes the PS4 a very difficult target to monitor.”
Moreover, useful information would be incredibly difficult to glean from PS4 consoles because users exist in a wide range of locations under multiple aliases for multiple different games.
“You can change your alias at any point in time, you can change the location you’re connecting from and the games you’re actually chatting within, so it’s going to be quite difficult to be able to track users across multiple aliases, games and locations,” said Ty Miller director of information security firm Threat Intelligence.
Finally, with so many first person shooter games that emulate violent situations, notably the Call of Duty games, it is difficult to discern if the players are talking about the game or real-world events.
“For example, maybe two terrorists are playing Call of Duty and talking about what they’re going to shoot,” said Troy Hunt, an IT security expert.
Neither Sony nor PlayStation has commented on the matter.