Authorities have long monitored and tracked chatter on the Internet in order to identify and thwart terrorist activities. Now, according to Italy’s justice minister, it appears that Italian counter-terror agents have expanded that jihadi chatter monitoring to include Sony’s PlayStation Network. The announcement came after reports surfaced that a PS4 was allegedly used to coordinate the Paris terrorist attacks.
Minister of Justice, Andrea Orlando, told reporters that the Italian government plans to invest about $158 million in a broad overhaul of the country’s security services with a focus on monitoring “any form of communication”, including the PlayStation gaming console.
The reports follow the publication of an article in Forbes which claimed that, “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.”
That article, in turn, was prompted by comments made by the Belgian deputy prime minister, Jan Jambon, who complained that Belgian security intelligence was unable to decrypt communications made via the PlayStation Network. It is reported that Jambon stated that, “PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp.”
However, it is important to note that Jambon’s claims were made days before the Paris attacks.
Surprisingly, it is the comparatively simple game console technology that may provide a more secure avenue to communicate than by using encrypted texts, emails or phone calls.
As of now, it remains unclear as to whether the Paris ISIS terrorists used PS4 networks to communicate. They could have done so by sending messages through the PlayStation network, voice-chatting or even communicating while playing a certain game.
The interest in terrorist communications through gaming platforms is not new. An NSA briefing note leaked by Edward Snowden entitled “Exploiting Terrorist /use of Games & Virtual Environments” showed that authorities sought to monitor terrorist communications exchanged while playing World of Warcraft and Second Life.