West Midlands Police victim of cyber attack during Birmingham riots

A PROBE has been launched after computer hackers crashed the West Midland Police email system as looters rampaged in Birmingham.

The email system and website suffered a “substantial failure” during the mystery attack on Tuesday, August 9, and took a number of days to return to normal.

A team of detectives is now hunting the hackers, however details of the inquiry remain secret. The attack forced senior officers to replace the email system. The first attempt in a “sustained cyber attack” against the West Midlands Police website began at about 9.33pm as police faced a second night of violence.

Hundreds of extra officers had been drafted onto the streets to deal with the threat of real looters and rioters when the virtual attack began.

The attack was known as a denial-of-service attack, where hackers set up a programme to bombard a website with requests until its servers cannot cope. The website either crashes or slows down so much that it cannot respond to legitimate users.

The attack had a major impact on the “performance and availability” of the force’s aging email system, a report to West Midlands Police Authority has revealed.

As IT experts battled to restore the system there was a knock-on effect, described as “subsequent unintended consequences”, that effectively resulted in similar performance issues.

The issue caused communication difficulties across the force and some external email functions were put on hold to allow critical police functions to continue operating.

The report titled ‘Issues with Email’ revealed: “During early August 2011, the WMP email system experienced a substantial failure, the details of which are currently the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.”


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