The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris that killed more than 130 people have brough the discussion about the security and privacy of encrypted technology, wondering if government spies in the United States should have access to encrypted messages sent over the Internet.
Intelligence organizations have long been seeking access to the so-called backdoors so they could monitor e-mails, messages, calls, and other forms of electronic communications despite encryption. However, tech companies and privacy defenders have fought the motion. All legislative efforts have been repelled and the ‘backdoors’ are not going to be provided to investigators yet.
European officials suggested that attackers used encrypted applications to hide their tracks messaging. Even Obama administration officials commented that the Islamic State has used different encryption technologies in the past year and a half, many of which can’t be violated by the National Security Agency.
Messaging end-to-end users ensure that nobody else can read the messages except the intended recipient. There are also perfect encryptions where even the manufacturer of the device can’t access encrypted messages, even when law enforcement presents that manufacturer with warrant.
The called end-to-end encryption technology is now widely used in many standard message systems for free, among which are Whatsapp, Telegram or iMessage applications. Even by the year 2014, Apple and Google announced that they would start to shield the content of the users data on their mobile devices, iPhone and Androids.
Several groups advocating privacy reacted with concern to the events. Such was the case of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): “We were shocked and saddened to learn of the attacks in Paris and Beirut. But these heinous attacks must not be used to justify further erosion of our security, civil liberties or privacy,” EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn told Defense One in an email.
“At this point there is no confirmation that end-to-end encryption was used by the attackers, much less that the use of that encryption is what led the world’s intelligence services to fail to detect the plot before the tragedy. What we do know is that strong encryption is crucial to allow political organizers, government officials, and ordinary people around the world to protect their security, privacy and safety from criminals and terrorists alike. Any ‘backdoor’ into our communications will inevitably (and perhaps primarily) be used for illegal and repressive purposes rather than lawful ones.” Said Cindy Cohn according to a Government Executive post.
Playstation as a recruiter of terrorists
After raiding the home of one of the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Paris, Minister of Security from Belgium reported that when they found the PS4 at home and analyzed the data , they were surprised when they discovered that the equipment was used for training, planning, recruit and online conversations between terrorists. Players, seduced by the game, lose track between the virtual and the real world.
Ariel Garbarz, an electronic engineer and telecommunications specialist, explained in an interview how terrorists communicated through the PlayStation 4, stating that “of the 60,000 terrorists that are found in ISIS, 10,000 were recruited through the PlayStation 4”.
Mr. Garbarz explain that terrorists played video games such as Warcraft or Minecraft for these purposes, where the British and US security , infiltrated to seek communications. However, because there are between 7 million online players permanently, this proved to be a challenge for the intelligence services.
Going into details, Ariel explained how the system was used, commenting that at some level, terrorists could encrypt voice communication and create a server, a virtual computer that connects to different consoles, where the terrorist leader is the established administrator of the server and distributed all the game drives and all the communication.
“When terrorists planned all the logistics of the attack, once the attack was made, they left no trace because they erased everything, both on consoles and the network. This gives an advantage to communications by phone or by whatsapp” he said.