Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

Summary: Hacktivism has surged this year, but it's taking on a new role in the London riots.


BlackBerry Messenger has been pinpointed as one of the main mediums that rioters in London have been using to communicate and, well, organize themselves, so to speak.

Now Research in Motion, as if they haven't had a bad enough year already, is the caught in the middle.

RIM’s Inside BlackBerry blog was hacked into after the Canadian mobile phone maker agreed to cooperate and help British police forces. As of 9:30AM PT on Tuesday, the site was still down and just looked like a blank page.

And for once, it's not Anonymous or LulzSec behind this security breach but rather an unknown group that is now being referred to as "TeaMp0isoN." The Next Web has the group's statement in full, but here's a snippet of the overt threat to RIM:

You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no reason at all, the Police are looking to arrest as many people as possible to save themselves from embarrassment…. if you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, gps locations, customer information & access to peoples BlackBerryMessengers you will regret it, we have access to your database which includes your employees information; e.g – Addresses, Names, Phone Numbers etc. – now if u assist the police, we _WILL_ make this information public and pass it onto rioters…. do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps?

For some, it came as a bit of a surprise that BBM is taking on the primary social media role in this turn of events rather than Twitter, which has been seen in other riots and revolutions in the last two years across the Middle East, most notably in Iran and Egypt.

However, as ZDNet's Zack Whittaker described on Monday, BBM has taken on the role of, and even replaced, standard text messaging for many people in the United Kingdom, so it's not that surprising after all in this case.

And although we've seen a number of attacks on governmental websites from Anonymous and Lulz Security, particularly during the AntiSec campaign that commenced earlier this summer, this occasion is quite different.

The attack is politically motivated, but these hackers chose to go after RIM rather than a London police department website instead. From one perspective, this makes sense as they're trying to cut off the source of information.

Yet, in a comparative incident, Anonymous targeted a Spanish national police force website after three of its own were arrested for allegedly being involved in the attacks on Sony's PlayStation Network.

But also, these hackers are directly threatening RIM employees. Anonymous and LulzSec have made it a point to go after governmental organizations and global corporations, which definitely did trickle down and affect innocent people, but they never threatened any of these people with violence.

Thus, someone has taken note of the power that hack attacks, and now turned it into a weapon that we haven't really seen before.

RIM shouldn't back down from helping U.K. authorities try to suppress these riots. But the breach of RIM's website is serving as a warning to both law enforcement officials and the tech companies working with them about the new face of cyber security threats that is growing in popularity -- especially amongst younger generations -- and it is taking on a much more dangerous tone.

UPDATE: A member of Britain's Parliament has called for RIM to suspend BlackBerry Messenger within the U.K. while the riots continue. While RIM is cooperating with law officials, it's not clear if they will actually bend to this request.


Topics: Mobile OS, Hardware, Mobility, Security

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  • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

    Down with RIM. I hope they go under soon.
    Tommy S.
    • Message has been deleted.

      • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

        @parabyte You're mistaken. Tools are useful and serve a purpose to civilization.
      • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

        @I12BPhil +1
    • In other news, the Brits are still trying to cover their tracks....

      • rioters who loot and pillage should be brought to justice.

        Anarchy does not solve problems. It will only introduce more.
    • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

      I think RIM's best option is to simply temporarily shut down BBM in the UK during the riots and outright refuse to provide law enforcement with the information they want.

      By not helping either the rioters or the police, they show two things:
      1. They are not interested in aiding and abetting anyone committing a crime.
      2. They respect the privacy and rights of their subscribers and will not cave to Officer Polite, who would likely round up everyone, including the innocent ones and prosecute them all.
      • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

        @ZazieLavender That would certainly be better than caving like they are doing.

        But this has always been the problem with trusting a service provider with your private data: it is only safe until they cave. Then it is unsafe. The only real solution is to not KEEP the data, and prove in trusted audits that you do not keep the data.
      • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)


        A wonderful suggestion, but a total national security state like the U.K. loves the opportunity to make an example of anyone who doesn't cooperate.

        It's been interesting over the past few years to see Britain finally lose the war against fascism by surrendering only 60 years after the not-so-defeat of the Third Reich.
  • Message has been deleted.

    Tommy S.
    • Political cartoon I can't draw

      @Tommy S. <br>I thought of this last year. Unfortunately, I see it as the direction in which our political discourse is going.<br><br>Scene: The outside of a single family home picketed by demonstrators carrying signs like the following:<br><br>Purify our neighborhood!<br>Death to enemy collaborators!<br>Conform or get out!<br>Bad!<br><br>Beside the driveway, an angry looking man stands on a soapbox harranging an unseen audience across the street. Beside him is a sign: "Neighborhood Unification Committee".<br><br>Caption: "Free Speech"
      John L. Ries
  • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

    Well done
    • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

      @mowaman@... Agreed!
  • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

    RIM has the bank account details of their users - stalemate?
    • not in most cases...

      @PassingWind as I'm aware, the banking is done with the SERVICE PROVIDERS, not with RIM.

      so, nice try, but not really. Oh, and then there are those who pay with cash, so... only the personal details they gave would be on record.
  • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

    The RIOTS are almost certainly a cover or distraction from the real criminal activity, which could be drugs running or gun running or even something more serious. How come they were so well organised at the time of the shooting and by the time the funeral happened, if not this?
    30 years ago in the Brixton riots, police found that molotov cocktails had been stockpiled days before the unfortunate death that supposedly "started" the riots
    • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

      @HugoM any references for Molotov cocktails "factoid"? Not saying it's impossible, but would like to see facts....
      • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

        I vaguely recall reports of the police finding crate loads of primed Molotovs at the time, but then how long does it take to fill a dozen milk bottles with petrol & stuff a rag in the top?
    • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

      This wasn't at all organised, it was the usual situation where smouldering tensions in a poor urban district were ignited by one incident. The criminality that followed was nothing more than opportunism by petty criminals who saw the advantages of using civil disorder for financial gain. I rode through Tottenham the morning after (day #1 of) the riots, the only shops that had been looted were the big retailers of high value electrical/clothing/sports goods. The other incidents that followed over the rest of London were pure criminality, criminals creating riot situations to cover theiving.

      The heavy use of BBM to "advertise" venues is probably due to Blackberrys' popularity as a cheap entry level smartphone amongst teenagers.
  • RE: Hacking becomes latest weapon in London riots (updated)

    "TeaMp0isoN" huh? hmm... in my area, these people would be called JejeMons.

    Jejemon Hackers.