Department of Homeland Security & U.S. Navy Hires Company To Hack Into Video Game Consoles

Department of Homeland Security & U.S. Navy Hires Company To Hack Into Video Game Consoles 

The U.S. government has hired a California-based company to hack into video game consoles, such as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, to watch criminals, especially child predators, and learn how to collect evidence against them. The $177,000 contract with Obscure Technologies of San Rafael, Calif., is being executed by the U.S. Navy on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security because of the Navy’s expertise in the field, officials said. Under the contract, Obscure Technologies will purchase used gaming systems from abroad that are believed to hold “sensitive information from previous users” and try to hack into them. Obscure’s experts will then report back on how they gained access to the systems, provide instructions to obtain users’ chat room activity, and even report back on the data gleaned, according to the contract and tasking documents. Obscure will also purchase new systems and construct a device that can capture data and activity, the documents state.
Over the past few decades, video game systems have grown in sophistication and capabilities by leaps and bounds. Consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Xbox can be found in many U.S. households and are popular among servicemembers, with Internet access and hard drives that rival personal computers.
With these advances, Garfinkel said, the systems have become a playground of illegal activity for criminals. In 2008, law enforcement agencies contacted the DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate and requested help in analyzing gaming systems seized during court-authorized searches, Garfinkel said. While some tools exist to extract data from gaming consoles, the consoles are hard to crack as they are designed with copyright protection systems, he said. Navy and DHS officials declined to comment on whether the gaming consoles of Americans will ever be hacked and monitored. They also declined to comment as to whether the system manufacturers had been approached about this research.

-Source (Stars & Stripes)


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