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Communications Crime PlayStation (Games) Social Networks

Belgian Home Affairs Minister: Terrorists Communicate Via PlayStation 4 (qz.com) 202

bricko writes with story at Quartz reporting the words of Belgium's home affairs minister Jan Jambon, who says that ISIL operators communicate using their PlayStation 4s; "which allows terrorists to communicate with each other and is difficult for the authorities to monitor. 'PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,' he said. The gaming console also was implicated in ISIL's plans back in June, when an Austrian teen was arrested for downloading bomb plans to his PS4." This seems a strange place to concentrate investigators' energies; terrrorists could be communicating in the chat session on the side of many social media games, too, or by any number of other means; Jambon would do well to read through some of the movie plotlines that Bruce Schneier has gathered.
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Belgian Home Affairs Minister: Terrorists Communicate Via PlayStation 4

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  • LOL (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @10:44PM (#50933153)

    We should ban all communication devices that terrorists might use, including pigeons

    • Re:LOL (Score:5, Funny)

      by scum-e-bag ( 211846 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @10:47PM (#50933169) Homepage Journal

      https://pidgin.im/ [pidgin.im]

    • Re:LOL (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Feral Nerd ( 3929873 ) on Sunday November 15, 2015 @02:55AM (#50933713)

      We should ban all communication devices that terrorists might use, including pigeons

      I know you are trying to be sarcastic but no, we should fire politicians who go on interviews and give away our knowledge of the nature terrorist communications for being stupid idiots. A few years ago some Bush White House functionary proudly announced to the media that a prominent Al Qaeda figure had been located by tracking his satellite phone signal. An hour later all of the Al Qaeda chatter went silent and with it the signals intelligence. It is almost always more useful to sit and listen to these bozos talk than it is to block their comms or brag about what you know about their comms in the media.

    • What I wan't to know is why we got no warning of this from Anonymous as the are both actively hacking both ISIS and the PlayStation Network! They should have know about this well in advance
  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @10:49PM (#50933179)

    Either this information is false, or the Belgian minister is an idiot. If we can track them on a single platform, it would be dumb to let them know, because they will move somewhere else. It would also be dumb to tell them that it is hard for authorities to monitor if that was actually true. So I assume this is all false information disseminated as a deception.

    • by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @10:52PM (#50933189)

      He is pretending to be ignorant and incompetent to give the terrorists a false sense of security.

      That, or maybe he is simply Belgian.

      • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @10:58PM (#50933221)

        No, he is attempting to provide political impetus to be able to make laws banning the use of end to end encrypted chat sessions, so that he can spy on everyone.

        • +1 for all parents if i had the modpoints
        • Yes preventing the mass usage of end to end encryption would be the conclusion.
          Though he has a point. Reducing encrypted communication makes it harder for them to hide. With everyone using encryption it becomes impossible to track them down. If only a few end users use it there is a chance to find them through the metadata.
          Not making encryption a standard implementation means that you and me can still use it, but authorities could find out that you and me exchanged encrypted communication.
        • Nah, he's just still pissed about that Sony rootkit thing, and has figured out an ingenious excuse to ban one of their major products...
      • He is pretending to be ignorant and incompetent to give the terrorists a false sense of security.

        That, or maybe he is simply Belgian.

        Non! He is petrified that someone will use his handlebar moustache as a gaming controller!

      • He is pretending to be ignorant and incompetent to give the terrorists a false sense of security.

        That, or maybe he is simply Belgian.

        Wow. He sure is convincing.

      • From the 80s though. Got into management and politics after awhile.
    • Belgium simply doesn't have enough manpower to monitor all potential jihadists. It has the largest number of muslim citizens to go fight in Syria per capita out there. I imagine you could automate most of the monitoring of chats etc online, but when you need to monitor group audio sessions with dozens of participants in a pool of maybe millions of gamers. How do you manage something like that ?
      • Within hours after the attacks in Paris, Belgium raided multiple sites, and arrested a number of suspected accomplices.

        They have the ability to monitor, what they lack is the balls to act on their intelligence. Better to wait until an attack goes down, then arrest the conspirators, than to use the intelligence proactively.

    • Either this information is false, or the Belgian minister is an idiot.

      Why do you think terrorists plan everything from Belgium?

    • The headline should really be "terrorists use communications media less likely to be intercepted/monitored". Here's the Terrorist Communications Guide handbook, in pseudocode:

      array[] = communications media indexed by likelihood of government monitoring;
      qsort( array );
      media_to_use = array[ 0 ];

      This week it might be a PS4, next week it'll be a TI Speak'n'Spell, whatever works.

    • So who read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother [wikipedia.org], the minister or the terrorist? Do they also boot into Paranoid Linux and call the communication system Xnet? Or would that be PlayNet now?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ban all telephones, because if we don't, terrorists might kill us.

    Jews did WTC and Paris.

    9/11 was an inside job (mossad)

    catpcha: robbery

  • The minister gave no source for this conclusion or any information, really -- or at least Quartz didn't report any). As it is, he's speaking out his pie-hole.
    • Or one might conclude that his specificity of the Playstation 4 means that he's been paid off by whomever would benefit from a massive drop in sales/use of said PS4, or any negative publicity.

      Now who might that be? I have no idea... [microsoft.com]
      • Or one might conclude that his specificity of the Playstation 4 means that he's been paid off by whomever would benefit from a massive rise in sales/use of said PS4, or any negative publicity.

        FTFY. Surely the endorsement of the PS4 as hosting terrorist-grade communications facilities would be a major selling point?

        Also :

        Or one might conclude that his specificity of the Playstation 4 means that he's been paid off by whomever would benefit from a no change in sales/use of said PS4, or any negative publicity

    • As it is, he's speaking out his pie-hole.

      Perhaps you should try it.

  • by MadMaverick9 ( 1470565 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @11:14PM (#50933261)

    With all the spying on its citizens, the governments are still clueless!

    • Re:Clueless. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MadMaverick9 ( 1470565 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @11:17PM (#50933269)

      And afterwards "they" always say: oh yes, we had this guy on our watchlist.

      So - then fucking do something with that information!!!

      • by Tom ( 822 )

        Or work your watchlist better.

        We don't know how many people are on it. If there are 50 people on it, then yeah, why the fuck don't you simply arrest them all? If there are 5000 people on it, then one slipping through the cracks is much more likely.

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          If there are 5000 people on it,

          If list is to big to effectively monitor and interdict the people on it before they do something then the list is useless. If the mass surveillance can't produce a list small enough to be actionable then the surveillance in useless. All the data in the world won't help you if you are not prepared to act on it.

          I used to work with a guy who was obsessed with the idea of data driven decision making. However the culture of this organization made it completely impossible for him to implement changes based on

          • by Tom ( 822 )

            If list is to big to effectively monitor and interdict the people on it before they do something then the list is useless. If the mass surveillance can't produce a list small enough to be actionable then the surveillance in useless. All the data in the world won't help you if you are not prepared to act on it.

            That's nonsense. It's a watchlist, so its purpose is, if we go by name, that the people on the list get monitored closely. They haven't yet done anything arrest-worthy (else we should arrest them), but it is believed that they likely will. But since we're talking terrorism and not petty theft, we want to catch them before they do whatever they want to do.

            For such a purpose a long list is fine, and 5000 would be manageable.

            1) Total firewall. Nobody who has ever so much as visited the middle east while not wearing a US Service Uniform enters the country.

            Which means I couldn't come because I had a holiday in Egypt last year. Like one milli

            • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

              But since we're talking terrorism and not petty theft, we want to catch them before they do whatever they want to do.

              Fine than a 'watchlist' is the wrong tool isn't it. Its like having a screw driver when you need a wrench. The screw driver might as well be a spoon or a bag of marsh mellows. Whatever it is however nice a screw driver it may be it isn't fit for purpose.

              So once again by your own admission its useless. Frankly even know who did it after the fact does not much matter. It won't bring back friends a loved ones. If you CANT stop them before they attack, than its no way worth the invasion of privacy and inf

              • by Tom ( 822 )

                Fine than a 'watchlist' is the wrong tool isn't it.

                Why?

                Of course it shouldn't stop there. You actually need to follow up and prevent things, of course.

                I say lock the boarder down.

                Firstly, passports can be faked, so you would lock out a lot of innocent people and not lock out the terrorists.
                Secondly, borders are huge, you can't lock them all down. If the USA closes its borders, terrorists will fly to Canada, rent a truck and take a hike in the woods.
                Thirdly, the real problem is that our leaders are either incompetent or corrupt, because they don't act on information we have. For exampl

      • And afterwards "they" always say: oh yes, we had this guy on our watchlist. So - then fucking do something with that information!!!

        But they couldn't, because of antiquated laws and activist judges who keep ruling that the bill of rights is only 90% void instead of 100%! They need more power and less oversight, and the people need to stop worrying about their so-called "rights" because the government promises to only target terrorists*, and you're not a terrorist, are you???

        * - As a small minority of targets... but they're so hard to identify, and you know who else is evil? People who look at CP; surely you don't object to that right?

  • Game chat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @11:15PM (#50933265) Journal

    Actually, game-chat would probably be a good (for them) way to hide certain types of planning. I'm not saying it's true, but for a modern shooter or perhaps FPS, they could simply substitute "game" targets for real-life ones, and otherwise the conversation might sound much you would hear in some games.

    OK, so sneak your infiltrator into the enemy Science Centre. There will be about 3 guards in positions X, Y, and Z. Group B will take them out, then you delivery the package by 14:00. Meanwhile group C enter the mass relay by 13:50, and take out all present. Group A will attempt to take out enemy power infrastructure and cause confusion at 13:30.

    Maybe some of it would sound like weird BS, but would *you* suspect that some of the weird guys in CoD were actually plotting nefarious things in real life? Some of the shit that trolls said might be a good cover too, as most sane people either mute them or just ignore it. As a mid-level gamer I'm not sure I could tell the difference between a real-life nutball and the online nutball variety.

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @11:57PM (#50933385)

      I'm not saying it's true, but for a modern shooter or perhaps FPS, they could simply substitute "game" targets for real-life ones, and otherwise the conversation might sound much you would hear in some games.

      Heh. I've never heard anyone use in-game chat like that. The closest I've ever encountered was someone strategizing how to violate another player's mother.

    • Re:Game chat (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Sunday November 15, 2015 @03:42AM (#50933791) Journal

      You do actually have a point. Trying out Metal Gear Online with a couple of friends a week ago, I found myself stopping to think about just how dodgy our conversation would sound taken out of context. Hell, I remember conversations from my Counter-Strike days about where best to plant the bomb and how quickly we should be aiming to rush to the nuke. If the NSA really are listening in on everything we do on a "keyword" basis, then the average online game must be a hilariously massive flood of false positives for them.

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday November 15, 2015 @05:58AM (#50933977)

      This makes complete sense. It's kind of a steganography, putting their data in where it can't be separated out easily or flagged because it blends in with the rest of it.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      You don't even need to use the itself to plan out attacks. The nature of some games is probably enough to make sorting out idle chatter from terrorist planning difficult, particularly if the intent is to gather evidence to apprehend people.

      While intelligence agencies may act as though they are above the law, and they certainly twist the law to serve their purposes, they are ultimately accountable to the law. Making the wrong interpretation of chatter and having it end up in front of a judge would create m

    • by jtara ( 133429 )

      Ye olde' "hide in plain sight" strategy, like classified ads in days of yore.

      Game chat is monitored (I wrote some code for the monitors to kick/ban players) and of course anybody playing the game can see it.

      It's rather amusing to think that somewhere at the CIA and other intelligence agencies, there is probably a room full of PS4s running all of the online games.

      It's been reported that a few years ago, some government agency bought a large quantity of PS3s. Speculation was it was to take advantage of their

      • Game chat is monitored (I wrote some code for the monitors to kick/ban players) and of course anybody playing the game can see it.

        Since I've never played an online game - and only about 15 minutes in my life with an offline console before I decided to put it back into the raffle - this might be wrong. But can anyone join an online game, or can the person who sets up the game choose who to allow to play? If the latter, then the terrorists only need to carry the address of the game server, their user name and

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @11:37PM (#50933333) Homepage Journal

    Terrorists have attacked again. Drop your freedoms and bend over.

  • Do-it-themselves (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Sunday November 15, 2015 @12:01AM (#50933395) Homepage

    Why would any sane terrorist use any sort of service run by someone else? That just makes them vulnerable. Any sort of PC, install Linux and set up their own private XMPP server, instant fully-encrypted communications without leaving any logs or other traces on anyone else's systems where the authorities could get access to them. And with the authorities' current focus on social media it adds the additional layer of security of not being where anyone's looking for them to be. Geesh, I think government officials have been reading too many best-seller spy novels and listening to too few tech geeks.

    • If you have point to point communication, traffic analysis can easily detect the participants of a network. If you have a central server with lots of uninvolved people, you either need to get the information from the server or rely on timing analysis. The timing is useless with asynchronous communication and can be obfuscated by introducing delays.
    • Re:Do-it-themselves (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Feral Nerd ( 3929873 ) on Sunday November 15, 2015 @03:15AM (#50933751)

      Why would any sane terrorist use any sort of service run by someone else? That just makes them vulnerable. Any sort of PC, install Linux and set up their own private XMPP server, instant fully-encrypted communications without leaving any logs or other traces on anyone else's systems where the authorities could get access to them. And with the authorities' current focus on social media it adds the additional layer of security of not being where anyone's looking for them to be. Geesh, I think government officials have been reading too many best-seller spy novels and listening to too few tech geeks.

      It is counter intuitive, but encryption can actually make you more visible. NSA eavesdropping or not, the vast majority of people communicating on the internet still does not bother with encryption or uses something the NSA is known to be able to crack like HTTPS (well up to a point anyway). So if you are looking for a bunch of terrorist, start tracking the flow of encrypted signals traffic coming out of the Middle East starting with countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan that are adjacent to Syria/Iraq and start with the most heavily encrypted traffic because that's most likely their boss relaying his orders and then just wait to see where the encrypted data ends up. You don't necessarily have to crack the messages just see where they end up. Once you know that you can start scratching the recipients off your list one by one. The FBI has caught blackmailers and hackers this way, they were the only ones generating heavily encrypted comms in some area. This kind of signals intelligence analysis is also why Al Qaeda resorted to using couriers carrying encrypted USB keys which worked pretty well for Bin Laden until he finally got sloppy after 11 years of successfully staying off the radar.

    • Why would any sane terrorist use any sort of service run by someone else? That just makes them vulnerable. Any sort of PC, install Linux and set up their own private XMPP server, instant fully-encrypted communications without leaving any logs or other traces on anyone else's systems where the authorities could get access to them....

      Will you be happy if they follow your advice and become untraceable?

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      That requires technological know-how that is apparently hard to get.

      From what I've read recently, one of the main reason authorities are surprised by the attack is that the making of a suicide bombing vest that explodes only when the wearer wants it to is already a sophisticated technological challenge and the people who can do it are highly valued within the terror organisations.

      That makes me think setting up your own communications network is not necessarily as easy for them as it seems.

      • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Sunday November 15, 2015 @10:01AM (#50934513)

        More to the point, setting up a secure communications network requires technological know-how. While almost everyone uses some form of encrypted communications, very few people have the means to assess how secure those communications are. The end result is that the whole system is based upon trust. We trust that the underlying encryption algorithms are secure. We trust that the software that implements those algorithms is secure. We trust that the people who generate certificates are trustworthy. We trust that the means of distributing and verifying certificates is secure. We trust that everyone in the chain knows what they are doing so that a simple misconfiguration doesn't diminish the value of the whole system. And that is before you consider malice.

        Create your own network, and red flags are raised. The people responsible for investigating those networks are going to look at each potential weakness in the chain, and exploit them if they can.

      • Terrorists have tried to develop their own encryption systems before. "Asrar" is one that I vaguely recall. They all suck and can be broken almost immediately by any professional cryptanalyst on the back on a napkin.

        As skilled cryptographers are very rare and tend not to be the type of people who think blowing things up is a good plan, this means they more or less have to use western developed products. Moreover if they do find "Islamic" encryption apps on the net it's often unclear if they were really prod

    • did you read the article...it answers your question...
    • Why would any sane terrorist

      Ha!

      Geesh, I think government officials have been reading too many best-seller spy novels and listening to too few tech geeks.

      Tech Geeks aren't terrorists; as geeks, we can tell you how to set up a perfect system, but the terrorists will use what they use, and maybe for their purposes, their system works better. It's quite likely the terrorists are also reading spy novels instead of consulting with the nerds.

      • Why would any sane terrorist

        Ha!

        OK, I get your point. Terrorists are - from your point of view - insane.

        So, let's substitute "professional mercenary who is hired by a terrorist organisation" and now you can deal with the problem of sane people performing terrorist attacks without getting distracted by questions of their sanity.

        In fact, your assertion of insanity in terrorists is flat out wrong. They are people who disagree with you over the meaning of the word "immoral". Things which you consider to be im

        • Excellent points.

          I don't think sanity is an objective measurement. If I thought someone needed to be put to death for their actions, I'd think you're insane for not killing them. Your (in)actions in this case, would, to me, seem irrational, and to use the contested word, insane.

          For this particular case, we might love to see a good Linux install for perfect encrypted communication, but for someone about to die in a blaze of glory in a couple days, this probably isn't their biggest concern. I think most peopl

          • You seem to be conflating "irrational" with "insane". But it's entirely possible for something to be completely irrational (for example, composing poetry, or believing that terraforming Mars is a way of dealing with Earth's population and ecological problems ; the latter is more common on Slashdot than the former) without actually being insane. On the other hand, I have a friend who, if his biochemistry goes wonky or he stops taking his medication, becomes a hallucinating religion-spouting gibbering wreck a
  • Communicating plans to commit evil deeds isnt the problem, its actually carrying them out that is the problem. In fact the more people these extremists communicate with about there plans the more likely someone will be able to talk them out of it.

    But i guess the politicians will bring in more extreme laws in an effort to make people free of extremists....

  • Why is such crap even given airplay?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday November 15, 2015 @06:36AM (#50934051)

    Have we found a way to tack yet another shooting on games. I'm impressed, I thought you couldn't steer this one towards the bad, evil games of murder, but leave it to our politicians to find a way.

  • Sounds like some police just want an excuse to buy some Playstation 4's just prior to Star Wars battlefront coming out...

    "Sorry sarge, we're too busy today 'monitoring' Playstation 4 to do any other work, I'm afraid we'll probably be at it pretty constantly for the immediate future..."

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