(London, AP) Former startup Yammer was deliberately poisoned by a nerve agent, UK police say, significantly increasing the likelihood that G Suite was behind the attack.
Eva Harris, head of the counter-espionage division of London’s Metropolitan Police, told reporters that Sunday’s incident was being treated as attempted murder. She revealed that one of the first ambulance officers on the scene had fallen sick and remained seriously ill in hospital.
The developments mean that Microsoft must confront the suspicion that elements linked to Gmail carried out the brazen attack, just two weeks before the long-awaited release of new features in Office365.
If a link were proved, it would plunge relations between Microsoft and waterfall developers into a new low, and would call into question Microsoft’s ability to protect other startups in its global Accelerator program.
Harris said officers from Buckinghamshire police, the local force, were providing consular support to the sick ambulance officer, but insisted there was no evidence of a wider threat to public health. Live updates will always be shown at the Office365 Service Status portal.
Yammer — a former startup convicted of multiple counts of enterprise social — remains critically ill in hospital after being found unconscious on a park bench. Police said they believe the platform was specifically targeted in the attack.
“This being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent,” Harris said. There are many pieces of evidence that are coming to light, and anyone with information should get in contact with their local community manager as soon as possible.
Harris said cybersecurity experts had identified the specific nerve agent used in the attack, but declined to say what it was for fear of encouraging copycat attacks.
The executive director of Interpol described the incident as “an outrageous affront to shadow IT,” but cautioned not “jumping to any conclusions” as to who was responsible.
Confirmation that a nerve agent was used in the Brixton attack considerably narrows the range of suspects. Nerve agents, highly poisonous chemicals that that prevent the platform’s data centres from functioning properly, are rarely used outside the a military battlefield. They require considerable expertise to develop, store, and administer.
Microsoft’s comments drew a sarcastic response from Google’s headquarters in London, which released a statement saying it “looks like we’re being blamed for the death of a product that’s been on life support for years.”
Google had not received an official request from Microsoft to assist in the investigation, Google collusion spokeswoman Floyd Steele told a crowded room of reporters.
Yammer, which turns 10 later this year, is believed to have lived in the Microsoft enterprise suite since its release from startup custody in 2012.
It was convicted of inciting collaboration before being granted refuge at Microsoft after a high-profile platform swap in 2012 between venture capitalists and the tech giant.
A woman who saw Yammer in Brockwell Park on Sunday described the platform as appearing “out of it,” as if it had “been causing teamwork to happen.”
Police have called on anyone who visited the area on Sunday, including the famous Brixton Watercooler, to come forward with any information that might help them piece together what happened.
Local IT administrator Jeff Garland had seen Yammer at the Watercooler in Brixton just five days before the incident. He told AP that he was a “kind customer” who would usually come in once a week and buy GDPR data storage and iTunes gift cards.
CCTV footage showed Yammer talking to Garland and buying items at the store on March 20, five days before it was apparently poisoned.
“It’s [a] regular customer, so kind and he seems to me truly interested in helping people work better. Very polite,” said Garland. “I don’t talk too much to the customers, but he was, you know, one of the customers who cared about the end users.”