Did terrorists use PlayStation 4 for communications in Paris attacks?

Pierluigi Paganini November 15, 2015

Rumors circulating on the Internet sustain that terrorists behind the Paris attacks have used PlayStation 4 for their communications.

The Paris attacks have shocked the world, the ruthless terrorists of the ISIS killed defenseless people. The days after atrocity law enforcement are conducting an investigation on a large range to identify the logistic base of the group and the network of ISIS members that supported the men involved in the Paris attacks.

The roots of the Paris Attacks lie partly in Syria and Iraq, but we investigators have no doubt, they have deep ramifications in the principal European cities.

At the time I’m writing, 3 people suspected of having links with Paris Attacks have been arrested in Belgium, the countries that intelligence agencies consider the lair from which they started terrorists ISIS.

The ISIS has brought the terror in our cities, for the first time a group of terrorist has men, resources and money to proclaim itself a state.

The Paris attacks demonstrate the ISIS had high-level logistical organization, they coordinated such a mass terrorist attack avoiding being detected by the intelligence, despite the level of alert was high due to the alleged terrorist attack in Sinai and the tragedy of the Charlie Hebdo.

Such kind of attack needs a significant effort in communicating among members which remained hidden from the law enforcement and intelligence agencies despite the numerous surveillance programs of many governments.

Authorities are monitoring in every instant the communications, even messages exchanged over the Internet and probably among ISIS members crowding the Deep Web.

New of the last hours is that the IS terrorists involved in the Paris attacks may have used the most popular Sony PlayStation 4 gaming console as the platform to exchange messages.

paris attacks 2

A raid in nearby Brussels provided evidence that terrorists were using at least one PlayStation 4 console.

The Belgian federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon explained that the PS4 is  used by ISIS members for their communications.

The choice is not casual, despite the effort of the intelligence agencies in monitoring communications over Gaming console, the ISIS members were aware of the difficulties to conduct a large-scale surveillance on the PlayStation 4 channels.

“The thing that keeps me awake at night is the guy behind his computer, looking for messages from [the Islamic State]and other hate preachers,” Jambon said last Friday, according to Brussels weekly, the Bulletin. “PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp.”

ISIS Paris attacks PlayStation 4

The PlayStation’s IP-based voice systems are difficult to monitor and terrorists could send messages to each other within PlayStation games without speaking or typing a word.

At the time I’m writing there is no certainly, the investigators have no clear idea about a possible use of the Sony Play Station 4, anyway we cannot underestimate this option in the hand of terrorists that have significant technological abilities. A few days ago the popular Cyber security expert Mikko Hypponen, Chief Research Officer for F-Secure, said he worries about cyber extremists that could penetrate critical infrastructure and cause serious damages. The expert explained that the ISIS is probably the first group of terrorist that has hacking capabilities to manage a major attack against a government infrastructure, and the situation is getting worse because this group is gaining greater awareness of the effectiveness of an offensive launched by the cyberspace.

We have already discussed in the past the possibility that terrorist groups could exploit gaming console for internal communications. In 2013, I published a post describing the activities of the NSA and the British GCHQ to infiltrate the virtual world of online games considered as an attractive environment for cyber terrorists and hackers.

The Guardian published documents leaked by Snowden on the surveillance program in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica, according the files the intelligence agencies have operated in virtual worlds and gaming communities to conduct intelligence operation and try to recruit informants.

Last documents published by the Guardian titled “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments” are dated 2008 and remarked the necessity to monitor online gaming communities describing them as a “target-rich communications network” where intelligence targets could “hide in plain sight”.

The documents just provide a warning on the possible abuse of online gaming communities, but don’t contain an indication on real case discovered by the intelligence agencies.

The Secret Services have infiltrated the principal online game communities including Second Life to monitor users’ habits and snoop their communications, NSA and GCHQ have created human avatars to explore virtual reality and prevent terrorist initiatives.

Yes, but at that time there was no automatic system to monitor such kind of communication, what about today abilities?

Paris attacks must lead us to reflect seriously on the subject, the ISIS has skills and resources and it is not surprising that its members can exploit gaming console as communication channels.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – ISIS, Paris attacks)

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