The U.S. government has hired a white hat hacker collective to dig through used video game systems in an effort to track down bad guys.
The Navy is leading the charge in this hunt, last week hiring California-based Obscure Technologies to head up the "Gaming Systems Monitoring and Analysis" project. The company will be paid just over $177,000 for the job of developing tools to extract sensitive information from six modern gaming systems and examine how it might be exchanged through messaging and chat networks.
Wary of the obvious privacy concerns, the Pentagon says it only plans to use this technology overseas, since it's illegal to do so on American citizens.
Beyond the possibility of terrorists using systems like Xbox Live and Nintendo's 3DS to exchange information about potential targets, the Feds are also looking to hunt down pedophiles, which sometimes use online game systems to find potential victims.
Obscure Technologies certainly has its work cut out for it. The company will be responsible for designing a prototype rig to monitor and capture data from gaming systems. They'll also have to write what sounds like a manual on how best to use it (and why it chose the route it did.)
That's tricky stuff, given how complex encryption technologies have become as developers fight back against video game piracy. But seeing as Obscure Technologies is staffed with a lead scientist who previously reverse engineered the Xbox, the Navy seems confident.
Part of the lure for officials to look closely at monitoring in-game chats and messages is the expanding role of game machines. The Xbox 360 and PS3, for instance, can now access social media sites and offer peer-to-peer messaging systems that have thus far gone largely unmonitored.