This is pretty concerning.
The Department of the Navy is going to start buying, en masse, people’s old video game consoles, like Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s Playstation 3 consoles and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, so that they can harvest any information regarding the previous owner of those consoles, including gamers’ online chat room information.
“This project requires the purchasing of used video game systems outside the US in a manner that is likely to result in their containing significant and sensitive information from previous users”, according to a Navy justification and approval notice issued March 26 2012.
The US Navy have allocated Obscure Technologies $177,237.50 to fund the development and delivery of computer forensic tools for analyzing network traffic and stored data created during the use of video game systems.
US game console owners are currently not being targeted as the project forbids targeting “U.S. persons.
The hacking project isn’t being kept in the dark though as the US Navy have promised to release data regarding the project as well as make open- source software from the contract available to academic researchers.
“The results of this contract will be publicized at conferences and published in academic journals. Open source software resulting from this contract will be made freely available. Other academics will be free to build upon it.”
The thing that is concerning though, is what are they going to do with the software once they have it? We already know that the FBI (last month) were seeking monitoring tools for Social Network sites, and now the US Navy are seeking user information from old consoles as well as the software that was created by Obscure Technologies to scrape that information. How many other government bodies will use similar software and to what end is the bigger question.
Last week, the NSA insisted it didn’t have ‘the ability’ to spy on American emails, texts, etc, which even the most gullible of people would be hard pressed to believe. EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request in early 2010, noting media reports at the time that the NSA and Google had agreed to a partnership following the cyber attacks in China that year against Google. The NSA replied that they could neither admit nor dent the accusation, which is government speak for ‘Yes, but we can’t admit that’
If you are in the process of selling your old game console, or just want to wipe the HDD on it, then Ars Technica published a great article that gives instructions on how to transfer your data to another console or, should you want, wipe the HDD itself. It covers Xbox, Wii and PlayStation 3 consoles.
What are your thoughts on this as either a US or non US gamer?
Here are a couple of embedded papers regarding the project.
Department Of The Navy Justification And Approval For Use Of Sole Source
Current Project Development