Riots in London fueled partly by messages sent via BlackBerry Messenger

BlackBerry UK Twitter
By Michelle Haag on 8 Aug 2011 04:17 pm EDT

A few short years ago, if a riot broke out somewhere in the world, you found out about it the next morning when your newspaper was delivered, or on the 6 o'clock news. Nowadays, news spreads at the click of a button, with millions of smartphones connected to Twitter and Facebook. Riots in Vancouver less than two months ago were seen almost instantly through pictures and videos as people used smartphones to record what they saw and upload to social networking. As a result, police were able to apprehend many people who were involved in the looting and destruction.

This weekend rioting again broke out, this time in London. Stemming from a peaceful protest over the shooting of a man named Mark Duggan, things quickly escalated and the gathering erupted into violence. As seen in Vancouver, the destruction and looting was spread across social media and in moments the whole world knew what was happening, including pictures of the people responsible.

This time around, however, the gangs of rioters found that using BlackBerry Messenger was a fast and easy way to communicate with like minded individuals, quickly organizing pockets of riots. Because BBM messages are encrypted, and require an exchange of PIN numbers, they are private - unlike Twitter or Facebook.

Research In Motion has agreed to work with law officials in London to help catch people who were instigators in the riots.

“As in all markets around the world where BlackBerry is available, we co-operate with local telecommunications operators, law enforcement and regulatory officials,”  said Patrick Spence, RIM’s managing director of global sales.

“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.”

With luck the responsible parties will be brought to justice soon, and London can begin rebuilding. Thanks to everyone that sent in tips regarding this. 

To discuss in the forums

Michelle Haag Michelle Haag "@_Miche11e_ and C0001B3B5" 1215 (articles) 1695 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Riots in London fueled partly by messages sent via BlackBerry Messenger


Because RIM only has the data if the messages via BIS passed through their NOC. If the BB is on a BES RIM does not have the data. Thus the set up of an exchange server and BES would circumvent RIM or the government having access to communications.

That's because countries run by White Christian or Christians in general (black Christian Obama for example) have softer rules on human rights. British can kill, rape and hurt anyone they like with no one questioning them. But India and UAE will not be allowed to do that without attacks from the Western companies like RIM.

Last time we had a huge riot issues in South Asian pro-Christian Western companies said, "its the govt that violates rights... so we don't give any info to the govt".

According to iron rule of the Western Christians, West never commit human rights violations what so ever. That's why HINDU India is against RIM.

Really? Wow, thanks for the clarification. :/
BTW, I always capitalize Christian when I write it so that everyone knows that I am not a Muslim. ;)

I don't see why RIM should give up the information. It's not any of their business. This is a sad day for liberty across the globe.

That was not the main problem, it was the fact that people including goverment employees were using BBs and their communitations and data was going out of those countries to RIM servers and back, it was not self contained withing that country / carrier... encrypted or not they were concerned that their data was easily available by US and Canadian goverments...

This is a perfect example of how easily RIM hands the information, imagine the CIA or other US goverment agencies asking RIM to hand all data for some users in other countries?

would rim be so quick to hand over compromising messages between rogue police too? trust me there are a lot of them in the uk, particularly the met in london.

So how did they know people were using BBM if it's encrypted??? Possibly another black eye campaign against RIM??? The situation is obviously no laughing matter and very serious but really.

A moment's thought and a search of those already arrested should provide the obvious answer. Nobody said these are smart guys, simply being involved in a riot proves that. The final confirmation would be found in the BBM messages on the non-password protected smartphone found in the prisoner's pocket.

Oh right so bbm isn't Secure...????? Bang out of order RIM..
They knew Earl 3 because journalists have been posing as rioters and getting pins..
Büt That's dangerous territory rim playing into the hands of our corrupt goverment..I mean you advertise it as Private..
Anyhow you've just probably increased the sale of blackberrys even more with that BBV't cock it up by abusing that privacy like the rest of the low life google etc.

This is major news here in the UK - it's really unbelievable. More people than probably ever before in the UK now know what BBM is - it's getting major flack for its use by rioters (eg 'London riots: how BlackBerry Messenger played a key role' -
Looks as though RIM's strategy to expand their market share by selling cheap curves to teens is backfiring a bit. Sad to see BlackBerry and BBM being used in this way, and for people to hear BlackBerry mentioned in so many news reports about the riots.

Grow up and have some sense of responsibility, we are talking about mindless thugs burning people out of their homes and destroying business in a Capital city. These people have no respect for authority, property or the rule of law.

We are not talking about disaffected, impoverished down trodden masses here. We are talking about mindless thugs who are burning the elderly, infirm and needy out of their homes and creating an intolerable situation for ordinary working people.

If you do nothing wrong then you should have nothing to fear. Obviously people have a right to privacy, but dont bite that hand that feeds you, dont attack the very authorities that you and your family rely on then act like a coward and hide behind the "I have the right to privacy" argument.

get some sense of cant behave like an animal irrespective and blame RIM for assisting law enforcement. This is the right thing to do. Well done RIM!!

So, if China blocks violent protects, it is a human rights violation, but when mostly White Christian nation blocks a violent protect, just forget about international BS human rights and privacy laws?

Double standard! One law for the West and another for the anti-West. So much for moral high grounds!

RIM phones should be banned in India, China and most non-Westren countries ALL together. Power is shifting from the West to East and I am sure MORE people lose their jobs in the West as the power shifts!

"when mostly White Christian nation"

You obviously haven't been to the UK. I suppose you could argue it's mostly white (though there's a healthy minority of every race and colour), but it's certainly not Christian in anything but name.

"I am sure MORE people lose their jobs in the West as the power shifts!"

Sounds like you're looking forward to it. You're right of course, but before the entire thing collapses there'll be a war. Probably when the US refused to redeem it's bonds.

Corporate America may be happy to offload jobs while buying cheap subsidised product from China, but ordinary Americans aren't that stupid.

But that's a whole other discussion for a different forum/board.

Ah... the truth hurts eh? We had a riot in South Asia. But RIM refused to release any data to the govt. Why? Non-Christian government apparently NOT allow to get access to data because we commit human rights and you don't. British have access to the data whenever they want while Govnt of India has to go through lawyers to get it. Period.

Please get your facts straight. China used force and violence against the protesters in Tianamin Square (sp). That is a blatant Human Rights violation. Just like any Communist,Marxist or any other non-free country. You may think India is a haven and all is well, but rest assured you are not without your faults.
And when is it a RIGHT to Violently Protest anything?

Peaceful protests are guaranteed by our Constitution. But I see nothing that says we have the right to Burn, Destroy and commit crimes to be heard.

You see the beauty of our Nation is this we can disagree and protest right in front of the White House if we desire, or have are voices heard through other non-violent means. but when we lower ourselves to violence and commit a crime we have given away our rights to protest.

The East on the other hand have been oppressed for years and the only thing that gets the Gov't attention is violence. how many peaceful protests get heard in the east?

What about this law abiding family who was subject to the same RIP act just for filling out a school application for their children. So if school officials are suspicious, than all rights to privacy are removed. They'll read your bbm, listen to your phone calls, emails, etc... all without your knowledge.

There's a bunch of other cases where RIPA has been used that don't seem to warrant a total loss of privacy or a total violation of civil liberties. Next they'll spy on you for political views. It's a slippery slope and we've just dropped the soap.

Agreed - there has never been any historical basis for trusting in government, law enforcement, or prosecution. Their incentive is to control and convict "the bad guys" the only problem is that the good guys get sacrificed in the name of justice as well.

Well said @blue81to.

Find me a government that hasn't abused it's powers over it's people innocent or guilty - and I'll change my opinion. But there is NO historical basis for trust in the government.

I understand how bad these people may be but the very fact that RIM is supposed to be secure should be enough of a reason for them not to hand over the information. Your argument that if you do nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about is misguided. Your trust in law enforcement and prosecution are misguided as well. They plant information on the very hard working people that you seem to believe have the ultimate rights over the rest.

If one person has rights - we all have rights. It's as simple as that. This is frustrating to see RIM get involved like this.

According to the RIP act passed in 2000, RIM has to give up the info.

In April 2008, it became known that council officials in Dorset put three children and their parents under surveillance, governed by RIPA, at home and in their daily movements to check whether they lived in a particular school catchment area.

The UK government can spy on you for even the slightest suspicion. I wonder what will be the criteria for who's bbm conversations are released? Will it be anyone who's Jamaican and lives in northern London? Or will they actually pick out people one by one based on some kind of evidence?

Whats Jamaica got to do with it?

The rioters were all over London, and included multiple races.

Unless they're white Jamaican tourists I suppose. Seems unlikely though.

I didn't mean it like that. I was just making an example. I'm curious how they will decide who's bbm will be released and who's wont.

They can just target everyone who's on 'pay-as-you-go' and uses the expression 'bruv' ;)

BBM is extremely secure. As the article points out.

However, if the traffic went through RIM's NOC they will have some traceability. And I guess that's what the police want.

Not so much what was said but who said it.

Sounds like they have the BB of some of those arrested, and are trying to trace back to the message originator. They'll already have the content from the confiscated devices. Otherwise, how did they know BB was used?

Of course if the criminals are on a BES they may never find out.

For info - the 'people' rioting are all 10-19 year old kids - absolutely NO WAY any of them are on a BES.

Mmmm your sort of right on one level, but who are rim and the authorities to decide when something should be private..? Just because things aren't going your way doesn't mean you just suddenly change the rules. That privacy is used for good as well, and tptb can eavesdrop on that as well now..Power is corrupt especially the UK police..
My argument is simply privacy not whether rioters are animals or not.. 55a although I agree with most you write I totally disagree with the phrase..." if you've done nothing wrong you've nothing to worry about" is weak and giving away your power..

Just so you know, you don't have to bring up Vancouver every time you talk about a riot. I know you don't talk about riots a lot here, but just because you're talking about a riot, doesn't mean you have to mention Vancouver...

A generic reference would be fine: "social media can have a huge influence in spreading messages of riots to the rest of the world". Plain and simple.

Why do you even need to reference at all? The whole point of that sentence was to bring out the idea of how social media plays a part in riots. If you use a general statement saying how social media plays a role in riots, no one will refute that. People understand the purpose of social media websites. There is no need for an example.

That would mean that the writer is ASSUMING that everyone agrees with her OPINION with nothing annotated that supports said statement.

Saying social media can play a role in riots is an opinion.
Saying social media was used in the Vancouver riots is a fact.

See what I mean? Do you want a writer to state nothing but opinions or include facts as well?

No, I do not see what you mean. Saying social media plays (not can play, but play) a role in riots is NOT AN OPINION. Just browse through those sites and you'll see the whole POINT of those sites. Saying that does not necessarily mean that EVERYONE has to agree.

And what's the point of saying social media was used in the Vancouver riots? Is it to prove that social media websites can play a role in riots? Well gee, aren't we just going in a loop...

With blackberry's being so affordable its no surprise that they're being used by the rioters. You walk around a school and 9 out of 10th kids have a blackberry.

BBM is not nearly as encrypted as everyone is assuming.

ALL BBM and PIN messages use the same encryption key, which is saved on every blackberry and is therefor easily decryption. Even with BES.

It is possible for a BES Administrator to use a custom encryption key but then you can only BBM/PIN with other users on the same BES server. This is very rarely implemented.

The encryption makes it more difficult to intercept than an SMS message it doesn't prevent anything. The fact that all PIN/BBM messages go through the RIM NOC actually provides a easy place to intercept the messages. Just ask India, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

I think we should all ask ourselves.

Do we want to live in a eugenic, totalitarian, orwellian state where freedom and liberty is a thing of legend from an ancient past long forgotten?

Youth gangs in Chicago were using similar methods to arrange "flash gang" attacks to mug people around metro stations in the loop just recently. They even all dressed alike in white tee shirts, jeans, sneakers and ball caps, then showed up at the exact same time from every direction, attacked, and calmly left in different directions like nothing ever happened.

Rioters were seen to be using air while speaking to incite others to riot with them. Air is therefore a material device with potential terrorist conspiracy applications and will henceforth be investigated and regulated per the RIPA, Patriot Act, and Code of Machiavelli. Anyone in contact with air will be required to maintain records on all their uses of air, including all recipients and the content and time of all communications made through air. Failure to comply shall result in excommunication from air. All parties to distribution and processing of air must now comply with not only HIPA but also RIPA, and cooperate with the Home Office, the Foreign Office, Scotland Yard, MI-6, the HSC, the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, the KGB, the SS, Interpol, and the Empire in maintaining and sharing secret records of the origin and movements of all air molecules passing through their systems. Further taxes shall be levied on the general population because of how a minority of people have abused air on very rare occasions. However, politicians shall be exempt from regulations concerning mis-use of air.

This is good that we still argue about religions, races, and any other stuff. Because if you guys agreed in one thing, then the end of the world is near. Except we all agree that we will buy the 9900 :-D

No, by the time my contract is up, BlackBerry OS will be obsolete and iPhone 6 will be out... probably with 200 back doors through the security... on second thought, maybe I will buy a 9900 or one of the new Storm 3's, er, "Torch" models, before a competitor reads my memos on future products.

Uh, this is SOOO bad!

That's exactly why the propagated "encryption" is totally worthless. Everyone will get access to your personal data, if RIM feels to do so or is asked politely.

Don't get fooled by RIM anymore, only trust in end-to-end(!) encryption!

Just to clarify whats happening in london and the bbm relation...the encryption element is NOT the reason these rioting kids are using bbm, they have no idea how secure it is. The reason they are using bbm is because they can send out a broadcast to their whole phone saying "meet up, 6pm at 'x' " and they dont care about being secure or people knowing who's sending the messages. They are using their bb's (aswell as rumourville on twitter/fb) to quickly organise these flash gangs in real-time.

The encrytion question is being raised by the police and the media because they cant read these bbm messages because of the security. Now RIM have said they may hand over the 'master key' so the police can access these messages, but the problem will be that they will only be able to read old messages, nothing in real time.

I have a suspiscion that if these riots continue (and they've spread to other cities around the uk now) that the police/goverment will ask for the BBM networks to simply be shut down so they cant be used. If these gangs cant communicate, the polices job will become ever so slightly easier as the gangs wont know where to go in large numbers.

This is major news here in the UK - it's really unbelievable. More people than probably ever before in the UK now know what BBM is - it's getting major flack for its use by rioters (eg 'London riots: how BlackBerry Messenger played a key role' -

Looks as though RIM's strategy to expand their market share by selling cheap curves to teens is backfiring a bit. Sad to see BlackBerry and BBM being used in this way, and for people to hear BlackBerry mentioned in so many news reports about the riots.