Hacking becomes latest weapon in UK riots

Hacktivism may have surged this year, but it's taking on a new role in the UK riots, including threats of violence.

summary Hacktivism may have surged this year, but it's taking on a new role in the UK riots, including threats of violence.

(London Riots, Croydon image by George Rex, CC BY-SA 2.0)

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

Now Research In Motion (RIM) — as if it hasn't had a bad enough year already — is 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 2:30am AEST this morning, the site was still down, and just looked like a blank page.

For once, it's not Anonymous or LulzSec behind this security breach; rather, it's 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 people's BlackBerry Messengers, 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 BlackBerry Messengers (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 US's Zack Whittaker described earlier this week, 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.

Although we've seen a number of attacks on governmental websites from Anonymous and LulzSec, particularly during the AntiSec campaign that commenced earlier this year, 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.

However, these hackers are directly threatening RIM employees. Anonymous and LulzSec have made it a point to go after governmental organisations 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 of hack attacks, and now turned it into a weapon that we haven't really seen before.

RIM shouldn't back down from helping UK authorities in trying 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 cybersecurity 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 UK while the riots continue. While RIM is cooperating with law officials, it's not clear if they will actually bend to this request.

Via ZDNet US


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