BlackBerry helps Britain's rioters organise

Aug 10, 2011 by Alice Ritchie
Young British rioters are using BlackBerry's instant chat service to send messages across the country, calling for rival gangs to unite in the destruction, according to messages published by the Daily Mirror newspaper.

The rioters causing havoc on British streets have eschewed traditional social networking sites as a way of organising, instead using the encrypted instant chat service on their BlackBerry handsets.

Although BlackBerrys are normally associated with white-collar workers keeping up with their emails, they are used by 37 percent of and children in Britain, according to recent industry figures.

They are popular because the Messenger (BBM) service offers a free alternative to texting and can send messages to many people at once. It is also encrypted, unlike which was used by protesters in Iran and Egypt.

"If you use Blackberry Messenger it's usually just you or your local group of contacts you've personally approved who can see your messages. That's why they've been preferring to use it," said Alastair Paterson, chief executive of cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows.

He said social media had proved "a very efficient tool for communicating, being able to effectively outwit the police by very quickly allowing them to move between areas that they know the police haven't been to yet".

"So before the police can show up they're already able to go in, do the damage and escape," Paterson told AFP.

David Lammy, an opposition lawmaker for the north London borough of Tottenham where the riots began on Saturday night, has urged BlackBerry to consider temporarily suspending the messenger service to stop youths using it to organise.

It was "one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force," he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, shortly before a fourth night of violence erupted in British cities.

Messages have been sent out to teenagers across the country calling for rival gangs to unite in the destruction, and for rioters to target police, according to messages published by the Daily Mirror newspaper.

One broadcast on Sunday, the first night the violence spread beyond Tottenham, said: "Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!! Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some."

It continued: "If you see a brother... SALUT! if you see a fed... SHOOT!"

That evening about 50 youths attacked Oxford Circus, on the famous Oxford Street shopping avenue in central London.

BlackBerry has offered any help it can to the authorities in Britain.

Illustration explaining how BlackBerry Messanger system works. British rioters are using BlackBerry's instant chat service to send messages across the country, calling for rival gangs to unite in the destruction, according to messages published by the Daily Mirror newspaper.

"We feel for those impacted by recent days' riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can," said Patrick Spence, managing director of global sales and regional marketing for BlackBerry.

"As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials," he added.

The Canadian firm which makes BlackBerry, Research in Motion (RIM), was threatened with reprisals on Tuesday if it released BBM messages to the British authorities.

"If you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, GPS locations, customer information and access to peoples' BlackBerry Messengers, you will regret it," said a message posted on RIM's official blog.

It warned that a hacked database containing contact details of RIM employees would be made public and "passed onto rioters", adding: "Do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees' doorsteps? Think about it."

A BlackBerry source confirmed that it has yet to suspend the BBM service, and Paterson from Digital Shadows said that such a move would not stop the rioters.

"If you shut it down you just displace that behaviour to other services. Blackberry is not the only closed messaging system," he told AFP.

Explore further: Privacy groups take 2nd hit on license plate data

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

India gives nod to BlackBerry messenger services

Oct 29, 2010

India on Friday said BlackBerry messenger services should be able to continue in the country after receiving pledges from the Canadian firm that law enforcers will able to monitor the encrypted data.

Saudis extend BlackBerry ban reprieve: agency

Aug 10, 2010

Saudi Arabia's telecoms regulator has extended indefinitely a reprieve on a BlackBerry messenger ban as a solution is sought that allows authorities to monitor the service, SPA news agency said Tuesday.

India extends BlackBerry access deadline

Oct 12, 2010

India has given BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) an extended deadline of January 31 to provide its intelligence agencies a way of accessing all its services, a report said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Privacy groups take 2nd hit on license plate data

Sep 19, 2014

A California judge's ruling against a tech entrepreneur seeking access to records kept secret in government databases detailing the comings and goings of millions of cars in the San Diego area via license plate scans was ...

Scots' inventions are fuel for independence debate

Sep 17, 2014

What has Scotland ever done for us? Plenty, it turns out. The land that gave the world haggis and tartan has produced so much more, from golf and television to Dolly the Sheep and "Grand Theft Auto."

White House backs use of body cameras by police

Sep 16, 2014

Requiring police officers to wear body cameras is one potential solution for bridging deep mistrust between law enforcement and the public, the White House said, weighing in on a national debate sparked by the shooting of ...

Chinese city creates cellphone sidewalk lane

Sep 15, 2014

Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going.

Coroner: Bitcoin exchange CEO committed suicide

Sep 15, 2014

A Singapore Coroner's Court has found that the American CEO of a virtual currency exchange committed suicide earlier this year in Singapore because of work and personal issues.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

COCO
not rated yet Aug 12, 2011
excellent tool of the revolution - problem is the back-door access allowed to the NSA would act as beacons for Amerikan jack boots - everyone in gaol - n'est-ce pas?