Following the devastation in Paris this weekend, officials have warned that ISIS may have used the Playstation network in order to arrange the massacre. The authorities believe that they may be using in-game messages to communicate with one another. Jan Gambon, interior minister for Belgium (coincidentally, the nation which it is believed several of the Paris suspects hailed from) stated that if this is indeed the case, it will prove to be very difficult to track such communications – if not impossible.
He said at an event just days before the Paris attack took place:
The most difficult communication between these terrorists is via PlayStation 4.
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.
Worryingly, they are not talking about simply sending a written message as you might to your mate on PSN, but an altogether more complicated method of communication.
Paul Tassi, a writer for Forbes, suggested that it would be possible to confer secretive messages via almost any video game and on any platform, be that something as simple as Nintendo Mario Bros. or a more complex game for example a first person shooter such as Call Of Duty. He writes:
The scary part of all this is that there are probably still a number of ways that terrorists could send messages to each other without speaking a word, if they really wanted to.
An Isis agent could spell out an attack plan in Super Mario Maker’s coins and share it privately with a friend, or two Call of Duty players could write messages to each other on a wall in a disappearing spray of bullets.
It may sound ridiculous, but there are many in-game ways of non-verbal communication that would almost be impossible to track.
To do so would require an FBI or NSA agent somehow tapping all the activity on an entire console, not just voice and text chat, and that should not even be technically possible at this point.
Even more concerning is how little Sony seem to care, with a spokesperson releasing a fairly generic statement in response to the claims:
In common with all modern connected devices, [PlayStation 4] has the potential to be abused.
However, we take our responsibilities to protect our users extremely seriously and we urge our users and partners to report activities that may be offensive, suspicious or illegal.
When we identify or are notified of such conduct, we are committed to taking appropriate actions in conjunction with the appropriate authorities and will continue to do so.
Oh well that’s fantastic, isn’t it? Since the whole point of their communication is to be unidentifiable, it’s nice to hear that your plan is to act if you identify them. That sounds absolutely full proof, mate.
A lot of people laughed when Anonymous said they were declaring war on ISIS, but maybe this is a way that they might actually be able to cause some damage to the terrorists. A repeat of last year’s Christmas PSN hack, perhaps?.