Game Changers In eDiscovery

Is it possible that gaming system such as Xbox and Playstation could contain valuable electronic information?  

Without a doubt, gaming systems have come a long way since Atari and Pac-Man.  They have become quite sophisticated technology.  As I have said in other blogs, any electronic device that can store memory has the potential for electronically stored information (ESI) which could become discovery.  Gaming systems can network with other gamers, personal data and messages are just as plentiful as with personal computers or smartphones.  

Today's top gaming systems are:

  • PlayStation 5
  • Xbox Series 10
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PlayStation 5 Digital Edition
  • Nintendo Switch Lite
  • PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Xbox One X
What kind of personal information do gaming companies collect through online gaming?  Here are a few things which could be stored on a gaming system:
  • Player's name
  • Birthdate
  • Address
  • Mobile Number
  • Email address
  • Credit card information
  • Virtual currency transactions
  • Screenshots
  • Game streaming
  • Time spent on video games
  • Chat logs
  • Geographical information
  • Social network information
  • Achievements
  • Friends
  • IP addresses
  • Digital images
  • Personal profiles
  • AND MORE depending on the gaming system
Game consoles have been used in criminal activities such as extortion, identity theft and child pornography and with their evolving technology the expansion of criminal activities conducted with gaming systems are increasing.

In June 2009, a Massachusetts state trooper was gathering evidence in a case that involved a suspect having sex with an underage girl.  He hoped to find one crucial piece of evidence which was a video of the encounter on a digital device from the suspect's home; however, the device wasn't a computer but it was the suspect's game console. 

You would definitely want to find an experienced computer forensics examiner to help you in extracting information from a gaming system.  Extracting data from a gaming system is a bit different from a PC in that a lot of the data may be encrypted differently and some data could be stored in the gaming systems cloud.  

Eric Vanderburg, Vice President of Cyber Security for TCDI agrees that conducting forensics on gaming systems are different.

"You would most likely not take the hard drive out because of lot of them have this built in encryption mechanism.  You’d have to interface with the system and mount the drive through it or we would need to pull the drive out and identify either if it has a special firmware that’s required to mount using that and obtain the data." 

If you suspect that important data resides on a gaming system, the first thing you need to do is to secure the system so that the data will be preserved since most data would reside in a temporary file which could be overwritten or changed when someone logs back onto the system.  

Vanderburg also suggests that data can be contained in MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online) data from gaming systems.  MMOs are large numbers of players, often hundreds or thousands, on the same server and usually feature a huge, persistent open world, although there are games that differ. These games can be found for most network-capable platforms, including the personal computer, video game console, or smartphones and other mobile devices.  Games such as MU Legend and Black Desert are examples of MMOs.

"Some of these MMOs or multiplayer online games will change hands from one company to another.  (You would have to migrate your data to another company)  Since you don’t know where the data resides you might have to go to multiple companies that have owned that data or managed it."

Gaming systems have become a new source of eDiscovery and litigators need to recognize these gamechangers in electronically stored information.  If you suspect a gaming system contains crucial data in your case, contact a computer forensics expert for assistance in extracting the data.




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