Feeds

Scotland Yard pokes crooks on Facebook

Policing 2.0: From Flying squad to surfing squad

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

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. ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
US Social Security 'wasted $300 million on an IT BOONDOGGLE'
Scrutiny committee bods probe derailed database project
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Australia floats website blocks and ISP liability to stop copyright thieves
Big Content could get the right to order ISPs to stop traffic
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.