Monday 26 September 2016

Paris Terror Attacks: Terrorists could have used games consoles to send encrypted messages to plan massacre

Martyn Landi

Published 16/11/2015 | 10:48

Spectators invade the pitch of the Stade de France stadium after the international friendly soccer France against Germany, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 in Saint Denis, outside Paris
Spectators invade the pitch of the Stade de France stadium after the international friendly soccer France against Germany, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 in Saint Denis, outside Paris

Terrorists plotting the deadly attacks in Paris could have used encrypted messages sent from games consoles to make their plans, it has been suggested.

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It was previously reported that Belgian police seized at least one PlayStation 4 console during anti-terror raids in Brussels. This is now reported not to be true, but the country's federal home affairs minister directly referred to the console when discussing how the terrorists could have communicated.

The Sony games console's PlayStation Network (PSN) has encrypted text and voice communication capability, and security experts have suggested that with investigators prioritising more traditional means of communication, including email, instant messaging and phone calls, messages passed between games consoles are harder to spot and could have gone undetected.

"The thing that keeps me awake at night is the guy behind his computer, looking for messages from IS and other hate preachers," Jan Jambon said.

"PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp."

It is more difficult to monitor console chats compared to mobile phones, as not only are messages encrypted, but users can create private voice chat rooms which would make eavesdropping by the authorities far more difficult unless they could directly join the conversation.

There have also been suggestions that terror suspects could even use codes within video games in order to communicate with one another.

Forbes magazine suggested suspects 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".

Among the documents leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013 were revelations that British and US intelligence agencies embedded themselves in popular online games such as World of Warcraft in order to monitor alleged virtual terrorist meet-ups.

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