As teenagers continued to loot and London burned, hackers broke into RIM's servers and defaced the BlackBerry blog after the company said it was working with UK police.
A group of hackers defaced Research In Motion's BlackBerry
blog to protest the company's plans to help United Kingdom police apprehend
individuals involved in the London riots.
After reports emerged that rioters in London and surrounding
areas are using BlackBerry's free Messenger system and Twitter to communicate
with other like-minded individuals, RIM said on Aug. 8 it will be work with law
enforcement authorities regarding its customers. Less than 24 hours later, Team
Poison, a hacker group, defaced the Inside BlackBerry blog and posted a message
blasting the company for offering to help the police.
RIM declined to specify exactly what is included in its
offer of assistance. BlackBerry Messenger communications, like all other forms
of BlackBerry transmissions, are encrypted and the company has said in the past
that it cannot decrypt them. Even though Team Poison doesn't really know what
the smartphone giant is going to do, the group threatened to release a database
containing personal information belonging to RIM employees.
"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 group
wrote in a rambling post, adding that the police were "looking to arrest
as many people as possible to save themselves from embarrassment."
London and surrounding cities in the United Kingdom have been
rocked by looting, arson and rioting for the past four days. Started in
Tottenham as a response to the alleged shooting of a protestor, Mark Duggan,
the violence no longer seems to have any focus. Many of those responsible are
believed to be teenagers using their BlackBerry smartphones and the free
Messenger instant messaging service to take pictures of their loot and
coordinate where to go next.
"We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We
have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can," the
Canadian smartphone company posted on Twitter Aug. 8.
RIM cooperates with local telecommunications operators, law
enforcement and regulatory officials around the world and complies with the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Acts in the UK, the company said in a
statement. It will cooperate "fully" with the Home Office and police
in the investigation into the riots.
RIM's team immediately removed the offending post from the
blog, but it reappeared almost immediately. "Deleting posts wont get u
far, try find out ho we got in patch" the flaw, Team Poision's
"TriCk" suggested on Twitter.
It was not clear at this point whether Team Poison found a
software vulnerability on the blog platform or if it compromised an
administrator's password, according to Graham Cluley, senior technology
consultant at Sophos.
"If you do assist the police by giving them chat logs,
gps locations, customer information & access to peoples
BlackBerryMessengers you will regret it," Team Poison threatened. The
group also suggested that once the information was public, the rioters would go
after RIM employees for collaborating with the police.
BlackBerry Messenger is free to use, unlike text messages,
and can be used by groups to communicate privately. BlackBerry devices are also
relatively cheaper than Android phones and iPhones in the United Kingdom,
making them popular among British teenagers, Cluley wrote on the NakedSecurity
blog. According to a recent report from Ofcom, the regulatory
authority for broadcasting and telecommunications, 37 percent of British
teenagers carry a BlackBerry.
"The 'viral civil unrest' has been
spreading for several days now, and reportedly, RIM's BlackBerry Messager is
one of the viral components would-be anarchists have used to organize
themselves," Mikko Hypponen
, chief research officer at F-Secure, wrote on
the F-Secure blog. He called Team Poison's attack "rather predictable,"
noting that RIM's message prompted hacktivists to lash out.