What began as peaceful protests for the shooting death of 29-year old Mark Duggan in Tottenham have turned into something far uglier over the course of three days, as rioters and looters have moved beyond Northern London and into other cities.
Yesterday, we reported that BlackBerry Messenger and Twitter had served as primary communication channels for the rioters, though the services aren’t directly responsible for any blame. But soon after those reports circulated, RIM announced that they’d agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in order to help catch some of the perpetrators.
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“We feel for those impacted by this weekend’s riots in London,” the company said in a statement. “We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can. As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials. Similar to other technology providers in the UK we comply with The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and co-operate fully with the Home Office and UK police forces.”
But earlier today, an opportunistic hacking group known as TeaMp0isoN decided to deface the official BlackBerry Blog, promising consequences if the company proceeded to aid the police.
Here’s the message they left:
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.
The blog has since been taken down, but TeaMp0isoN are still relishing in their achievement. “LOL these so called ‘Security Experts’ at rim/Blackberry think deleting a post is getting rid of us .. epic fail,” reads one tweet. Another slightly more civil-minded one reads: “The people looting shops are lowlife scum – i dont condone in looting, understand pl0x.”
Though the message left on the BlackBerry blog threatens to make public the private database of RIM employee information (addresses, names, phone numbers, etc.), The Register points out that this appears to be a pretty run-of-the-mill hack, and there’s nothing to suggest that the group has indeed infiltrated the company’s databases.
(PHOTOS: Riots in London)
On a slightly brighter note, police are using several different forms of social media (that you can read about here) to help catch willing participants in the widespread destruction.
Chris Gayomali is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.