BT and Dixons named as May Day protest targets
Cops comb Net for anti-capitalist mayhem info
Police are preparing to meet the threat posed by anti-capitalist protestors in London on 1 May by monitoring their evolving plans on the Internet.
Tactics for the loose confederation of anti-capitalist, green and anarchist groups who are planning rallies in May remain unclear.
Because of this police are keeping an open mind about whether hacking or Web site defacement attacks will be carried out as part of the protests - a very real concern in the face on widespread web defacements at the beginning of this month.
Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Akerman, who heads an influential police computer crime working group, reflected the view of many in law enforcement when he said that anti-establishment protests would likely be focused on street activity.
Police are certainly not keen to give protestors ideas, but the inclusion of Dixons and BT among the list of targets raises the real possibility that technology and the Internet may become involved in protests.
Neil Barrett, technical director of Information Risk Management, and a long-time advisor to the police on information security, said he hasn't seen serious discussions about hacktivism, so far - but that doesn't mean it won't occur.
Dealing with any acts of Web sabotage or vandalism should be the responsibility of Britain's recently-formed Hi-Tech Crime Unit, said Barrett, who added that such cases would be the first high-profile test for the unit, which began operations this month.
For now the Internet seems to have been largely used as a message board by protestors and there are unconfirmed reports that the posting of fake messages and use of encryption has frustrated police investigations.
The police and City authorities are keen to avoid a repeat of last-year's anarchist and anti-capitalist demonstrations, which saw the defacement of monuments including the cenotaph and widespread damage to property.
Groups active on the Internet this time around include organisations like MayDay Monopoly, which takes its name from the famous board game. It has published a list of targets, including banks and multinationals (Dixons and BT are in there), that will be attacked in locations taken from streets that feature in the Monopoly board game.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said it preparing a "robust response" based in large part on intelligence obtained from the Internet for any violence or disorder that might occur on 1 May. Police are not willing to say how many protestors they expect to take part in the demonstration or how many officers are likely to be involved in any operations aimed at quelling unrest.
It also believed that police will be advising firms to improve their security measures in the run-up to the 1 May protests. ®
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