Feeds

Techies top cops' terror profile

Allo allo allo - is that an RS-232 cable, sah?

Security for virtualized datacentres

If you think that the police's profiling of terror suspects is something that only happens to other people - think again. Today's panicky Plod doesn't seem to be very discriminating at all. And you could be next.

Techie David Mery has published an account of being arrested, and having his computers confiscated, because he happened to be wearing a rucksack on the London Underground the day after the 27/7 bombings. Or as phone blogger Russell Beattie put it -

"My pal David Mery got arrested in London last Thursday for being a geek"

Mery's account of his ordeal appeared in The Guardian yesterday, and the newspaper published his story verbatim. You can read it here.

For nerds everywhere, it's a chilling read. The Frenchman works as a developer liaison at software company and he's lived in London for 15 years. But his "profile" is one that fits many Register readers.

As Mery himself puts it, "Techies and terrorist behavioural profiles are the same".

Mery dug out the police's own training guide for identifying potential suicide bombers, and found this -

Behavior. Does the individual act oddly, appear fearful, or use mannerisms that do not fit in? Examples include repeatedly circling an area on foot or in a car, pacing back and forth in front of a venue, glancing left and right while walking slowly, fidgeting with something under his or her clothes, exhibiting an unwillingness to make eye contact, mumbling (prayer), or repeatedly checking a watch or cell phone. [...]

Appearance. Is the clothing, grooming, gender, or age of an individual out of place within the context of the environment? Examples include someone wearing a heavy coat or jacket in warm weather [...]

Equipment. Does a briefcase, duffle bag, or backpack seem extra heavy or have protrusions or visible wires? When the individual sits down, is he or she overly protective of this item or preoccupied with it? [...]’

I think that describes many of us. If applied to Silicon Valley, the US economy would be paralyzed at a stroke. And Bill Gates would be calling a lawyer.

London's jumpy police said that their suspicions were aroused because Mery was wearing a thick coat. The jacket, insisted a constable, was "too warm for the season". A similar justification was used for the fatal shooting of a Brazilian.

But only the day before, temperatures had hit a 25-year low.

"Could it have been instead that the weather was too cold for the season?", asks Mery.

A fact that only London's finest failed to notice.

We're perhaps blessed that the Met chose the wrong suspect, and chanced upon a former professional journalist looking at his phone. In the 1990s David Mery edited the extraordinary, now sadly defunct programmer's journal EXE, a tiny publication which married geek curiosity to literate wit, and was the home for many years to Verity Stob - the poet laureate of computer programming. Mery and his predecessor Robert Schifreen created a publication with an appreciation way beyond its circulation figures, and such wonders live long in the memory of anyone who's worked in publishing.

But what about the less well connected?

As David himself remarked about his ordeal - "at least I'm still alive". ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.