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BlackBerry hacked for cooperating with London police

Brandon Griggs
The London police are posting photos of suspected rioters on their Flickr page and asking the public to help identify them.
The London police are posting photos of suspected rioters on their Flickr page and asking the public to help identify them.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • BlackBerry blog is hacked after smartphone's maker says it may cooperate with London police
  • News reports say rioters in London have used BlackBerry Messenger to plan mayhem
  • Online groups try to identify rioters from surveillance camera images
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(CNN) -- After three days of rioting and looting in the streets, London's unrest is moving to the Web.

Research in Motion's Inside BlackBerry blog was hacked Tuesday after the Canadian smartphone maker suggested it would cooperate with London police to help identify rioters who may have used a BlackBerry messenging service to plan mayhem.

A hacking group calling itself TeaMp0isoN took credit for the attack, which involved posting a statement on the BlackBerry blog before RIM removed it.

"Dear Rim; 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 statement read in part. It then threatened to make public a database of RIM employees' personal information.

Security blogger Graham Cluley said Tuesday it wasn't clear whether the hackers managed to post on BlackBerry's blog because of a software vulnerability or because one of their administrators had his password cracked.

The hack followed a statement Monday night on UK BlackBerry's Twitter feed that said, "We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can."

A RIM spokesman issued a statement to the Guardian and other UK media saying the company would comply with a British law compelling it to hand over to authorities information from its encrypted network.

According to various news reports, many UK rioters have organized via BlackBerry Messenger, a free instant messaging tool that allows groups of smartphone users to communicate in private. The phones' relatively low price have made them popular with British youth; a recent survey by UK telecom research firm Ofcom found that 37% of British teenagers prefer BlackBerrys to other smartphones.

Some London public officials have asked RIM to shut down BlackBerry Messenger temporarily to stem further unrest. A representative for RIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the London Metropolitan Police began posting photos of suspected looters on their Flickr page and asking the public to help identify them. Someone else created a blog filled with images of suspected criminals, Catch a Looter, on Tumblr but was overwhelmed with submissions and stopped updating it Tuesday evening.

Other online groups are even vowing to use facial-recognition software to identify London rioters from public images captured by surveillance cameras.

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