Feeds

Scotland Yard pokes crooks on Facebook

Policing 2.0: From Flying squad to surfing squad

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Scotland Yard has set up a team to monitor social networking websites such as Facebook and YouTube for snippets of intelligence from clueless crooks who brag about their exploits online.

Officers from the Met's newly established Open Source Team surf websites and infiltrate chatrooms, without disclosing their identities, to gain intelligence. It's far removed from the traditional image of coppers, as epitomised by Det Inspector Jack Regan from landmark '70s cop show The Sweeney, grilling their snouts for leads down the pub over a bottle of whisky, but Scotland Yard says the changed approach is appropriate for changed times.

A Met Police spokesman explained that the service monitors a wide variety of social networking forums such as My Space, Facebook, and Friends Reunited, for example.

Undercover work online has helped in the detection of crimes including child abuse and fraud. Detectives have also spied on suspected gun smugglers and drug dealers.

In one example a subject found on MySpace was pictured in a car park carrying what appeared to be a Mach 10 sub machine gun. The 15 year-old was subsequently traced to an estate in Tottenham, north London. He was arrested and charged, later pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm and receiving a 10-month referral order, the Daily Mail reports.

The team passes on intelligence profiles to other squads who ask for their help. Street names and telephone numbers are gathered online and used to piece together links between gangs and their associates.

"Social network profiles (not specific to Facebook) can reveal colours such as bandanas. Any telephone numbers that are on a profile are passed on to the relevant unit. Street names are used to link associates," A Scotland Yard statement explained.

Det Chief Supt Martin Hewitt, head of the Metropolitan Police's Intelligence Bureau, explained: "Like the general public, who are increasingly using technology to communicate, criminals are also increasingly using it - including as a tool to organise their crimes. Therefore, the internet offers a wealth of information that we are able to monitor and use to prevent and detect crimes.

"We are seeing occasions where chatrooms and social networking sites are being used to boast about crimes. Cutting edge techniques and technology, as well as good old fashioned thorough intelligence work, is enabling us to turn the tables on the criminals," he added.

As well as bragging of past exploits, some crooks are even stupid enough to talk about upcoming blags.

One senior Yard officer told The Telegraph: "We have been amazed to discover that not only are they boasting about past crimes. They are also boasting about crimes they are about to carry out in the near future.

"The internet is particularly useful for keeping tabs on gangs from various areas who issues threats and taunts against one another online."

Earlier this month, an Old Bailey trial heard testimony about how Paul Erhahon, 14, was stabbed through the heart by a gang called the Cathall Street Bois who frequently boasted of their exploits on sites such as YouTube, the Daily Mail adds. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't
Silicon Valley's veteran seadog in piratical Putin impression
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.