BlackBerry Blog hacked for helping police quell riots

The attack was spurred by RIM's reaction to reports that BlackBerrys were being used by London rioters to orchestrate actions

Hackers defaced the official Blackberry Blog today in retaliation for Research In Motion's pledge to assist police "in any way we can" in their efforts to quell the riots in London in recent days.

After vandalizing the BlackBerry blog website, the hackers, who call themselves TeaMp0isoN, posted to the Internet an open letter to RIM, which makes BlackBerry smartphones, explaining the motivation behind their actions.

[Related story: Londoners Take to Social Media Outlets During and After the Riots]

"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," they wrote unfettered by rules of grammar and punctuation, "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," the hackers threatened. "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...," they continued, "do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps?"

The attack on the BlackBerry blog was spurred by RIM's reaction to reports that BlackBerrys were being used by rioters to orchestrate their activities. "It seems that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is the perfect instant messaging tool for rioters, given that it's free to use (unlike text messages), and you can instantly see when someone has read a message," the UK edition of The Next Web noted.

"Also," it added, "whilst Twitter is very much a public platform, BBM can be used to communicate between groups in private."

In light of evidence that its hardware may be being used by rioters, RIM, which has shown in the past strong resistance to government authorities interfering with its customers' privacy, told the world through Twitter that it was going to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. "We feel for those impacted by the riots in London" it tweeted. "We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can."

That ambiguous statement was later refined in a statement by Patrick Spence, RIM's managing director for global sales and regional marketing. "As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we cooperate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials," he said. "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."

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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John P. Mello Jr.

PC World (US online)
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