Italian authorities to invest 150 million euros on monitoring PlayStation chat, despite discredited link to Paris attacks
Mon 30 Nov 2015
Italian Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando has revealed that the Italian government intends to spend 150 million euros (£105mn | $157mn) on new equipment and techniques to monitor encrypted communications, including the PlayStation 4 game chat protocols which recently fell under suspicion as a means of communication by which ISIS may have coordinated the recent attacks on Paris.
It is not clear whether the ‘new instruments’ of surveillance about which Orlando spoke to Il Messaggero [Italian language] will be new to investigative authorities, or new per se – but the decision to make the investment involves not just equipment and technicians, but additional ‘cultural mediators’ in prisons, “to prevent these forms of radicalisation, that have developed in other countries in [the same] context.”
The quotes in the report indicate that this new investment and these new resources were requisitioned significantly before the attacks on Paris, and that Orlando is capitalising on Paris to publicise the innovation in much the same way that David Cameron did when he announced the addition of 1,900 staff to GCHQ in the wake of Paris – a development which had been greenlit significantly ahead of the attacks in Paris on the 13th of November.
“We had already decided to invest 150 million euros this year on reinforcing [our] information systems.” Said Orlando in the article, and continued: “The net offers numerous opportunities for communication. Antiterrorism investigations have highlighted the use of the [PlayStation]. Because of this every method of communication will be monitored with new instruments.”
Orlando called also for the creation of a central Bureau of Anti-terrorism in Europe, but one which would be subject to the higher authority of the European Union. The minister referred to a “jump in quality” in international terrorism to which the EU might not have yet responded at the highest level. Asked if the battle was ‘lost’, Orlando said “I fear it is, but I really hope not.”
The PlayStation network was cited by a number of media outlets as a possible planning arena for the instigators and organisers of the November 13th attacks, although no evidence was provided that this was the case. Three days prior to the attacks Belgium’s deputy prime minister Jan Jambon had said in a debate that the thought of ISIS and “hate preachers” passing messages via the PS network “keeps me awake at night.” Given the lack of any specific evidence against the PS network’s participation in the Paris attacks, the rollercoaster controversy on this issue seems to have started around the time of the debate and received an unexpected flashpoint during the attacks.
Sony responded to the increasing media furore to Eurogamer with a standard PR return that the PlayStation 4’s messaging encryption capability ‘has the potential to be seriously abused’, but also with reassurances that the company would always cooperate fully and enthusiastically with any investigations which needed its assistance.
The debate was greatly deflated when the International Business Times suggested that Jihadi terrorists might be writing self-destructing messages to each other by spraying bullets on the walls in Call of Duty.