As an (in)direct consequence of the London Riots, a crew of hackers called TeaMp0isoN has defaced the The Official BlackBerry Blog after RIM has indicated to assist London police, who are investigating the use of the messaging service in organizing riots, with a “very extensive monitoring of the BlackBerry Messenger model”.
The availability of BBM (Black Berry Messenger), a closed messaging system for one-to-one or one-to-many (encrypted!) communications at no charge, has made BlackBerry a very popular device among U.K. teens, who are believed to be the major responsible for the riots which have hit British streets. As a consequence BlackBerry Messenger is believed to have played a key role for rioters to organize themselves.
Since the Company decided to support the Police to contain the riot, granting access to BBM data and logs, it did not take so long for a resounding retaliation by the above quoted hacker group.
Curiously shortly after the attack, MP called for BlackBerry Messenger suspension to calm UK riots, and albeit this is claimed as a victory from rioters, I cannot help but notice that it is really a paradox: the whole story is a consequence of the need for authorities to extensively monitor BBM and the same authorities now ask for a complete lockdown of BBM which might be the ultimate remediation to stop the riots).
In my opinion, this hactivism event can be seen from a double perspective: at first glance this is only the last episode of hactivism, whose actions and impacts are nowadays natural extensions in the fifth virtual domain for wars and revolutions crossing the borders of the real world. But a second deeper analysis shows surprising and, somewhat, unexpected consequences.
The event was a consequence of the attempt by authorities to deprive rioters of their weapons, that is mobile technologies. Said in simple words, we are seeing a kind of Consumerization of Riots (the western world equivalent of what I defined Consumerization of Warfare that is the influence played by consumer technologies, mobile and social networks in primis, for spreading the riots in Middle East). Of course with the obvious difference of scopes and geography.
But if the contemporary use of both mobile technologies, for communicating and coordinating, and Social Media for virally spreading information useful for the cause (tweets like weapons), is a (quite) common and consolidated practice whose primary role has been recognized for the revolutions of Maghreb and Middle East, what is completely new is, for the first time, the impact and the price (to be) paid by the technology vendor, in this case RIM, (in)directly involved in the events. As a matter of fact RIM is suffering heavy aftermaths, which will not likely end here.
Not only the Waterloo based company was hacked with a resounding defacement, with huge consequences in terms of image, but also the brand seriously risks to be negatively associated with rioters, which could lead to further negative impacts for the brand, with possible consequences in terms of sells.
Is this maybe the reason why Twitter refused to shut down the accounts of the London rioters, besides the blog post according to which Tweets must always flow?
P.S. From an Information Security Perspective…
Several Information Security blogs were wondering if hackers managed to post on BlackBerry’s blog because of a software vulnerability, or because one of their administrators had his password cracked. In my opinion several tweets from TeaMp0isoN seems to confirm the first hypothesis: