Dubai Police and the ignominy of being hacked on social media

When your day job is to ensure the safety and security of those around you, it doesn’t get worse than this for Dubai Police. The police force best known for solving crimes in a matter of moments and driving around in swanky super cars (the latest is a three million dollar Bugatti Veyron) has just been hacked by a group with the Twitter handle @TheHorsemenLulz – presumably named after the infamous hacker collective LulzSec.

All but one of Dubai Police’s social media sites have been hacked, including Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Pinterest (Facebook was the only social media channel that wasn’t hacked). While the images have now been removed, a couple of hours after the sites were compromised, here’s a screenshot of the offending image on the Dubai Police Twitter feed @DubaiPoliceHQ.

A screen shot of the image sent out by the hackers via the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account

A screen shot of the image sent out by the hackers via the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account

While the most obvious questions are how were these accounts hacked and how easy was it to hack the accounts, my issue is more about the group behind the hacks who have claimed several other cyber attacks in the UAE, including crashing the websites of Noor Islamic Bank, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the UAE Central Bank. Do we have a locally-based hacker group in the UAE?

In a Tweet that included the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account the group put out a video in November saying they’d be targeting the UAE Government. While the tweet and the video didn’t make too much sense, why wasn’t the issue taken seriously by those handling the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account? With the UAE’s Government Summit taking place in Dubai tomorrow shouldn’t cyber security be top of the agenda for the public sector, and in particular the Dubai Police?

#MyDubai and the issue of whether to pay the public for content

The first images from #MyDubai's initiative provided for free by Dubai residents (image source:

The first images from #MyDubai’s initiative provided for free by Dubai residents (image source:

To pay or not to pay? That’s the question. The city-state has launched an interesting project based on social media, dubbed as a social-media autobiography of Dubai to be written by its residents and visitors. To quote The National newspaper:

The year-long project will bring together people in the emirate through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. A call has gone out to share pictures and videos using the hashtag #MyDubai.

According to The National the project will tell the real and human stories of the city through residents’ contributions which are posted onto Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (there’s no mention of YouTube and Pinterest which is a shame).

The National followed up today with a second piece on the initiative. Tourism bosses from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) will select the best photographs and videos from the Emirate’s residents and showcase them in exhibitions and roadshows as part of the year-long #MyDubai project. The public’s images will be used to promote Dubai throughout the year.

What isn’t mentioned is if the public are going to be paid for their images which are going to be used for advertising the Emirate. As any content producer knows, photography and videography are expensive. While those lucky few whose images get chosen – to quote The National, “more than 25,000 images and videos were uploaded to Instagram using #MyDubai just 12 hours after the campaign was launched” – will be referenced and have been so far online on DTCM’s Definitely Dubai Facebook site is it right to use images provided by the public for free (even if it is with their consent).

And on another note, who owns the copyright to the images? Are the images commissioned by DTCM for their explicit use or do the copyright owners of the images, have the ability to pull the images as and when they please if they object to how the images are portrayed?

I love the concept of #MyDubai but should the public be paid for images that are used, even if only a token amount? If it’s for corporate usage, then I think they should do.