GCHQ to help police catch rioters who used social networks to coordinate violence

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GCHQ to help police catch rioters who used social networks to coordinate violence

Kathleen Hall

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is responsible for key aspects of the UK's cybersecurity, and MI5 are working with police to hunt rioters by trawling social networks.

The agencies are helping the effort to catch people who used social messaging, especially Blackberry Messenger (BBM), to mobilise looters, The Guardian has reported.

It is believed that the rioters primarily communicated via BBM to organise the violence last week. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, BBM is harder to intercept as users access it through a pin-protected instant message system. Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has said it will cooperate with police in finding the rioters.

Last week, David Cameron said the government would crack down on rioters using social media. Home secretary Theresa May is to meet with Facebook, RIM and Twitter to discuss the role of social media in the riots.

"Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality," said Cameron in his speech.

RIM has come under fire from governments around the world due to the security of its networks. The Indian government, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had previously threatened to ban Blackberry services due to concerns that terrorists could use encrypted services to coordinate attacks.


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