The PlayStation bombers: How they hijacked games consoles to send terror messages

A woman joins crowds looking at floral tributes and candles left at Place de la Republique in Paris following the terrorist attacks on Friday evening.
A woman joins crowds looking at floral tributes and candles left at Place de la Republique in Paris following the terrorist attacks on Friday evening.
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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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A woman joins crowds looking at floral tributes and candles left at Place de la Republique in Paris following the terrorist attacks on Friday evening.

A woman joins crowds looking at floral tributes and candles left at Place de la Republique in Paris following the terrorist attacks on Friday evening.

Police in Belgium reportedly seized at least one PlayStation 4 console during anti-terror raids in Brussels, and 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.

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“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.

A woman joins crowds looking at floral tributes and candles left at Place de la Republique in Paris following the terrorist attacks on Friday evening.

A woman joins crowds looking at floral tributes and candles left at Place de la Republique in Paris following the terrorist attacks on Friday evening.

“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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