London rioters used BlackBerry Messenger to communicate

9 Aug 2011

BlackBerry Messenger was the channel many London rioters used to share communications, RIM will work with police and the official BlackBerry blog gets hacked.

While some of the UK media initially believed Facebook and Twitter were the tools used to organise the uprisings, The Guardian reports that Metropolitan Police said BlackBerry’s messaging service “played a key role” for spreading the word on the riots.

“If you’re down for making money, we’re about to go hard in east london tonight, yes tonight!!” read one message sent on Monday evening.

“I don’t care what ends you’re from, we’re personally inviting you to come and get it in. Police have taken the piss for too long and to be honest I don’t know why its taken so long for us make this happen.

“We need a minimum of 200 hungry people. We’re not broke, but who says no to free stuff. Doesn’t matter if the police arrive cos we’ll just chase dem out because as you’ve seen on the news, they are NOT ON DIS TING. Everyone meet at 7 at stratford park and let’s get rich,” it said.

While the service seems like an unlikely choice, particularly among more popular social networks, technologist Jonathan Akwue believes its reduced visibility helped it become the messaging tool for the rioters.

“I am not a security intelligence expert so I don’t know the extent to which the police are able to monitor the BBM network, but Canadian police officers have previously complained that criminals prefer using Blackberry Messenger because it is harder to wiretap,” wrote Akwue in his blog.

RIM’s co-operation

The news won’t help BlackBerry maker RIM’s ailing public image and the company has said it would co-operate with police with the investigation.

RIM said it “complies with UK legislation on the interception of communication and co-operates fully with the Home Office” suggesting it could share private messages with the authorities. However, the company did not comment further on the statement.

A Tottenham MP has called for the service to be shut down overnight to prevent further communciations between rioters through this channel, The Register reports.

Those against the violence have been using technology such as Twitter and Facebook to help clean up the city after the destruction caused by riots and looting.

BlackBerry blog hacked

UPDATE: The Next Web reports that RIM’s Inside BlackBerry blog was just hacked, demanding the company should not co-operate with the police.

The hacking group TeaMp0isoN is taking credit for the attack and posted a statement on why it did it as a blog post on RIM’s site. It says innocent BlackBerry owners could be charged for being “in the wrong place in the wrong time.”

The group claimed to have access to RIM’s employee database, with names, addresses and phone numbers, and said it would make this public if RIM did work with police.

RIM has since removed the blog entry and took its blog site offline, however, here’s the statement in full:

“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? Think about it…. and don’t think that the police will protect your employees, the police can’t protect themselves let alone protect others….. if you make the wrong choice your database will be made public, save yourself the embarrassment and make the right choice. don’t be a puppet..

p.s – we do not condone in innocent people being attacked in these riots nor do we condone in small businesses being looted, but we are all for the rioters that are engaging in attacks on the police and government…. and before anyone says ‘the blackberry employees are innocent’ no they are not! They are the ones that would be assisting the police.”