- By Amir Begović
Met in total melt down
Victims of crime told they are unable to file reports
Britain’s largest police force was plunged into chaos last night allegedly after engineers ‘cut through a cable’ feeding its most important IT systems. However when questioned about rumours that this may have been a user error or even a cyber attack the Met were unable to offer an official statement with staff at Hackney’s Stoke Newington police station telling The International that the loss of data and loss of all computer, email and communication systems means they will never truly know the cause. Only that the problem was effecting the entirety of London’s Metropolitan police force, including it’s counter terrorism units.
Police on the beat were left flying blind, with no information other than scraps of paper with hand written notes on them for information about incidents across one of the world’s largest cities.
People accused of crimes, but not charged or formally detained were illegally held for up as much as 6 hours, The International’s journalists witnessed, against their will with no legal warrants or charges against them as the police admin staff desperately tried to gather information and authorisation by mobile phone.
“The systems are down”
“The systems are down” is all the staff at Stoke Newington (Where The International had journalists based constantly through out the day) kept repeating to the solicitors of angered citizens, held against their will, and unable to report crimes.
Victims of hit and runs, burglary, robbery, violent crimes, fraud and other serious incidents at Stoke Newington were time after time again handed a paper form and told to fill it in and come back on Monday.
The majority of victims for less serious crimes were simply told there was nothing they could do. The system failure had left an apparent staff shortage as well as shortage in staff intellect with even the most basic of requests bamboozling the staff who’s behaviour was as one solicitor explained “Not only illegal and dangerous but highly moronic”.
According to The Mail:
“One officer said the force would be left hopelessly paralysed in the event of a terrorist attack and that automatic alarms were going unanswered.”
‘It’s an absolute disaster. If there was a terror attack we would be unable to respond properly.’
The chaos started to unfold around 15:00 on the 22nd September 2016 when Met officers and admin staff began to experience ‘intermittent technical difficulties’. It is precisely this intermittent nature of the system failure that sparked wide spread internal rumours that this could indeed not have been caused by a simple cable being accidentally cut by maintenance staff.
When asked if the Met were investigating the rumours of a trial run cyber attack being the cause of the failure the Met refused to offer an official comment directly, instead referring to the spokesman’s comment that there is no evidence to suggest an attack at this stage.
The International left the Metropolitan Police at approximately 20:00 today when the systems, indeed remained down.
The Computers are down, please report crimes online
There was pandemonium through out London as officers were left to rely on their some times ineffective radios and even personal phones to co-ordinate emergency calls and respond to ongoing issues.
The force’s telephone system, computer aided dispatch, internal email systems and other essential networks all suffered total failures. Backups and emergency safety protocols also failed to kick in.
A spokesman for the Met told the gathering press that 999 calls were being handled using ‘contingency procedures’ and urged members of the public to report non-urgent crimes online. A problem, when the police have no online access.
Some officers trying to explain the failures to the press by explaining maintenance staff had cut through a single cable justified this cause by further adding that the force is currently undergoing huge changes to its infrastructure as its HQ, New Scotland Yard, is relocating to a new building in Whitehall. However, the vast majority of phone calls are routed through three calls centres in Bow, east London, Lambeth, south London and Hendon, in north west London, all separate and not physically connected to the Central London HQ, even by a cable.
Policeless Friday Night in the Captial
The failure saw London effectively without emergency services on Friday night which typically sees 21’000 calls to the police. An office from the Met said:
“The control room is down to using pen and paper and can’t grade any of the calls as emergencies. The system which is used to inform officers on duty about incidents is not being updated. Also, information about addresses is unavailable so officers are going into potentially dangerous addresses blind. If there are any automatic alarm calls from premises, they are going unanswered.”
A £200 million 10 year contract to privatise the police IT systems which saw hundreds of jobs cut has come under fierce condemnation from many staff across the Met to day, who say the system is antiquated and a constant source of frustration and disappointment.
None of the back up or emergency systems worked, it was a total city wide failure.
The closest the press came to extracting an official explanation from the Met was given by an official spokesman:
“The cause of these technical problems has not been established. There is no evidence at this stage to suggest any “attack” on Met systems.”
No borough or personnel would offer any further comment on either the public or internal rumours surrounding the cause.
The Met’s international reputation is not great to begin with. “Total Policing” as opposed to “Protect and Serve” comes under daily fire for it’s autocratic and barbaric approach to totalitarian policing. This latest blunder could leave the force wide open to much than condemnation. Fears of “copy cat” or “opportunist” cyber attacks taking advantage of the weekend systems has grown rapidly. Even if the current crisis was not caused by an attack, the failed back up and emergency systems have shown the world exactly what weaknesses the Met are working with. It could be a very costly and lengthy process now to repair and improve the force’s IT systems.