Northern Irish Police Suffer "Deeply Alarming"
Data Breach

Family fears for my safety as a police officer

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have declared a “critical incident” after a self-inflicted security breach has exposed all the names of their officers and staff, where they were based and their roles. 

A spreadsheet containing these details was mistakenly posted online by a junior staff member following a freedom of information (FoI) request. The information was then taken down two and a half hours later, and the force’s Assistant Chief Constable, Chris Todd, has asked for anyone who has obtained the data to “delete it straight away”. 

Throughout the Troubles, a period of 30 years marked by violence in Northern Ireland, over 300 police officers lost their lives, and the continued presence of republican paramilitaries keeps officers and personnel at risk. 

Many police officers, especially those from nationalist communities, took great care in keeping their employment secret – sometimes even from their own friends and family. This catastrophic accident has put officers of the PSNI in potentially huge danger. 

Alliance Party’s Naomi Long asks “Why was all this data held in one place? Why was it not encrypted? Why was a junior member of staff in a position to be able to access it? Given the sensitivity of such data, is that in itself not a concern?” 

This incident is unfortunately the devastating result of human error, coupled with insufficient cyber security. We live in a digital world and, once information is online, it is there permanently. That’s why it is absolutely essential to train your team on the importance of cyber security, put in place necessary barriers to prevent sensitive data being accessed by every staff member or potential criminals, and encrypt data so, if leaked, it is unobtainable. 

If you have any concerns about the cyber security of your organisation, get in touch with our team. 

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