- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2015

As investigators scour for clues that could help explain Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, intelligence officials may look towards a video game console said to be increasingly used for extremist communications.

Officials probing last week’s tragedy have so far declined to release any evidence concerning potential suspects, but remarks made only days earlier by Jan Jambon, Belgium’s federal home affairs minister, have left some to speculate over whether the perpetrators behind the attacks plotted with a Playstation 4.

“The most difficult communication between these terrorists is via PlayStation 4,” Mr. Jambon said Tuesday at an event hosted by Politico. “It’s very, very difficult for our services — not only Belgian services but international services — to decrypt the communication that is done via PlayStation 4.”

“PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,” Mr. Jambon added, referring to a popular instant messaging application that allows users to communicate instantly through encrypted texts.

Sony, the makers of the console, have shipped more than 25 million PlayStation 4 boxes since 2013, and roughly 65 million users are regularly active on the PlayStation Network, a gaming platform that enables users to send messages and chat with one another while gaming.

“PlayStation 4 allows for communication amongst friends and fellow gamers and, in common with all modern connected devices, this has the potential to be abused,” a spokesperson told the U.K.’s Express this week. “However, we take our responsibilities to protect our users extremely seriously and we urge our users and partners to report activities that may be offensive, suspicious or illegal.

“When we identify or are notified of such conduct, we are committed to taking appropriate actions in conjunction with the appropriate authorities and will continue to do so,” the rep said.

In June, police in Australia arrested a 14-year-old accused of communicating with militants who supported the Islamic State group via his PlayStation 4. The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, took credit for Friday’s attacks that claimed more than 130 lives.

French President François Hollande claimed the attacks were “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.”

As of Monday, authorities had not said whether the attacks were explicitly coordinated using encryption. Nevertheless, law enforcement officials have claimed that tools that allow individuals to communicate off the radar have enabled acts of terrorism.

“ISIS, taking advantage of the technology that the head of the FBI has been complaining about, I’ve been complaining about, going dark, the ability to go dark, I think you’re going to see that playing a significant factor in this event,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” about the Paris attacks.

Last month, FBI Director James Comey said the Obama administration “is not seeking legislation at this time” to deal with the so-called “going dark” dilemma brought on by increasingly ubiquitous encryption, ending for now a debate that widened a rift between Silicon Valley and D.C. as either side wrestled over the potential repercussions of forcing tech companies to compromise their own security.

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