NSA Wiretapping Your Video Game Console… - subsaint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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NSA Wiretapping Your Video Game Console…

The hypothetical scenario I'm about to propose is purely speculation and isn't based on any fact or insider knowledge - I don't have a secret unnamed source and certainly haven't found any classified documents suggesting it has or will happen. It is based on a couple of events I've been following over the past few days and decided to relate it to the world of video games. The first event (and obviously the most newsworthy) is the report claiming the NSA has been collecting phone records.

"The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries." Full Story at the Guardian can be found here.


The other event hit a little closer to home and involves the theft of some personal electronic equipment. A friend of the family had a laptop and iPad (among other things) stolen. Whenever something like that happens, we often evaluate our own preparedness - so I made sure to set up the "Find iPhone" feature on my iPhone and evaluated some freeware apps to help recover your computer if it is ever stolen. It sort of operates like LoJack does in vehicles equipped with it.

If you've never checked out the iOS app (apparently it works with the iPhone and iPad), you can play a sound (if you're trying to find a lost or misplaced phone); you can send the phone a message; you can lock it and even erase it...all remotely from another phone, iPad or Mac computer.

I found one particularly nifty application you install on your computer and if it's ever stolen, you log on the associated website and mark it as missing. Should the perpetrator (or new user who doesn't know it's stolen) ever connect to the Internet with your computer, it will basically report its location and go as far as taking a picture using the webcam (assuming it's a laptop with built in webcam). That's kind of scary when you think about it, but also kind of cool (depending on which end of the camera you're on).

Anyway, combining the general fundamentals of each of these stories, should we be preparing for the next newsworthy scandal to be...

NSA Wiretapping Your Video Game Console.

In my professional opinion, it's not only possible but probable this COULD happen...both in technical capability and by executive decision.

Some of you might think I'm off my rocker...or maybe this is just another of my conspiracy theory blogs. Others might point out the NSA is accused of only collecting the actual records (time, numbers called, people called) - not collecting the actual conversations. Maybe...maybe not. I don't think any of us really knows the extent of what's been captured.

Consider though, the age of analog phones is almost a thing of the past and most of our voice and data (and video for that matter) is digital...and passed over the Internet. It isn't a stretch to imagine the same agencies that are able to collect cellular and landline phone calls are able to collect any other type of digital data stream...which means, they could be listening in and/or watching whatever we're doing on our...

Video game consoles?

With all three consoles - the Wii U, the Xbox One and presumably the Playstation 4 all having a camera built in, and all having a voice capability used to chat with your fellow gamers from around the world...imagine if the NSA, some other government agency or even a rogue hacker group like Anonymous having the ability to eavesdrop inside your home. Even worse, imagine if the government said it was legal because it was being performed in order to thwart terrorism.

Surely you've already heard this capability exist with cellphones and smartphones - that even when they are powered off they still emit signals...and the government can still hear and see through the phone. Just as concerning, what if this can be (or is) carried out on other devices like our computers and game consoles.

When people ask me what I think about persistent online connections and the direction most of the consoles are going with requiring them, I can't help but wonder about the long term implications this could have on our individual privacy. I honestly don't think Sony or Microsoft or even Nintendo are implementing this requirement to expose us to this vulnerability. I actually applaud them for pushing the envelope with innovative new technology for us to play games with. But that doesn't mean this feature we view as a capability can't be exploited by those, especially our own government agencies that have the technology and resources to do so.

If you don't think an "always on" Internet connection is that big of a deal and can't understand why those who complain about it are doing so, next time you look into your Wii U's gamepad camera, your Xbox's Kinect camera or your Playstation Move's camera, consider who might be on the other end watching...whether the system is on or off.

Big brother could be watching you...

...play Call of Duty.

 

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