US military wants to hack game consoles

By Jacob Aron
New Scientist

Thinking of selling your video game console on eBay? Watch out, it could end up in the hands of the US military. The US navy has just contracted a company called Obscure Technologies to buy up second-hand consoles and develop computer forensic tools for extracting data stored on the hard drives.

The contract, published earlier this week, tasks the company with purchasing consoles from outside the US “in a manner that is likely to result in their containing significant and sensitive information from previous users”, then providing tools for extracting information along with any data it finds and a report on the methods used. Obscure Technologies apparently has experience in cracking video game hardware, as the company’s lead scientist previously reverse-engineered the original Xbox. UK researchers have also hacked consoles to investigate game piracy.

Why is the US military interested in combing through your saved games, though? It could be that the navy is checking Gamerscores to recruit video-game-trained future soldiers, but it’s more likely interested in extracting any sensitive information exchanged through the messaging services found in modern consoles.

British tabloid The Sun recently reported that “terrorists” are using games like Call of Duty as “training tools”. That’s highly unlikely, unless al-Qaida has decided to take up pwning noobs – but it is possible that plotters worried about phone or email taps may have turned to alternative modes of communication.