Police have issued a tender to replace their CyberAlarm tool following reporting by The Register and infosec researchers revealing security flaws in the logging software.
A public tender notice revealed that the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) is seeking a new supplier for what it described as the “next iteration” of the threat-logging tool network, in an apparent rip-and-replace of the existing software.
The winner of the new contract will have to build a new suite meeting the NPCC’s distributed threat-logging objectives – and a slide deck included with the notice explained that this includes “migrating the current system data, members and capability to the new service.”
Pervade Software, makers of the current iteration of the CyberAlarm tool, have been contacted for comment on the tender notice. Last year The Register revealed that Pervade and the NPCC were aware of security flaws in the tool – but were silently patching them while pretending to ignore researcher Paul Moore, who raised his concerns directly with the project before going public.
Some of those flaws were less serious than others but CyberAlarm’s aggressive and unhelpful response to Moore, as well as attempts to gloss over his findings when The Register asked about them, fell well outside industry norms.
CyberAlarm is a police vuln-scanning tool. Its stated intention is to provide cybercops with an instant overview of current network attacks facing UK SMEs, with a secondary function being to tell businesses who deploy the tool that they’re under attack. Host organisations deploy it inside a DMZ on their own networks so police can view connection types and volumes.
Bitter war of words erupts between UK cops and web security expert over alleged flaws in Cyberalarm monitoring tool
Detective chief superintendent Andrew Gould, the NPCC’s cybercrime lead and “owner” of CyberAlarm, told The Register in a statement: “Due to the growing demand for Police CyberAlarm from businesses across the country, further funding for the project has been secured from the Home Office for another 12 months (2020/21) following the government’s latest one-year spending review. As per procurement regulations we are required to conduct a new competitive tender to identify a supplier for the new 12-month contract.”
Gould was the man who sent cease-and-desist letters [PDF] to infosec analyst Moore ordering him to stop analysing CyberAlarm because his findings were “liable to cause significant and irreparable damage to the Police CyberAlarm brand.”
A CyberAlarm spokeswoman previously denied that project personnel had been telling members of the public that The Register had audited the tool and given it a clean bill of health.
The NPCC’s CyberAlarm is also not the only UK infosec product under that name. El Reg spoke to Dominic Aslam, a director of Cyber Alarm Ltd. This company was registered before the police tool was launched.
Aslam claimed the NPCC’s CyberAlarm project had ripped off Cyber Alarm’s logo at its launch. Backing this up, he showed us a link to the Wayback Machine. Its first capture of the cyberalarm.police.uk website shows a distinctive logo with a semicircle at its centre.
“Obviously, the logo is something I commissioned myself, it’s not an icon I found somewhere on the web,” Aslam told The Register, asserting he had commissioned it in March last year. “It’s something I’ve paid for and therefore the copyright is my IP.”
In what may be a coincidence, Aslam said Cyber Alarm Ltd traded from the domain cyberalarm.org – making it quite odd when he noticed that the NPCC had registered the domain cyberalarm.org.uk for itself.
As for wider IP issues, Cyber Alarm Ltd’s director told us he was advised not to try registering CyberAlarm as a trademark because intellectual property authorities were likely to conclude it was too generic.
We have asked the NPCC’s Gould to comment on the logo similarity and will update this article if he responds.
Moore told El Reg: “If the public are to trust the next iteration of CyberAlarm, the NPCC must learn from this debacle and work to rebuild their tattered reputation.” ®